Light climate is of key importance for the growth, community composition of submerged macrophytes in lakes and, they, in turn, are affected by lake depth and the degree of eutrophication. To test the relationships between submerged macrophyte presence and the ratio of Secchi disk depth (SDD) to water depth, i.e. SDD/depth, nutrients and wind, we conducted an extensive sampling campaign in a macrophyte-dominated area of the eastern region (n = 36) in 2016 in Lake Taihu, China, and combined the data gathered with results from extensive physico-chemical monitoring data from the entire lake. We confirmed that SDD/Depth is the primary factor controlling the community composition of macrophytes and showed that plant abundance increased with increasing SDD/Depth ratio (p < 0.01), but that only SDD/Depth > 0.4 ensured growth of submerged macrophytes. Total phosphorus and total nitrogen also influenced the growth and community composition of macrophytes (p < 0.01), while Chla was an indirectly affecting factor by reducing underwater light penetration. Wave height significantly influenced plant abundance (p < 0.01), whereas it had little effect on the biomass (p > 0.05). The key to restore the macrophyte beds in the lake is to reduce the nutrient loading. A decrease of the water level may contribute as well in the shallow bays but will not bring plants back in the main part of the lake. As the tolerance of shade and nutrients varied among the species studied, this should be taken into account in the restoration of lakes by addition of plants. (C) 2020 The Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Published by Elsevier B.V.