Bear Lake, UT/ID: drought, littoral habitat, and endemic fishes

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BearLakeandTribs_ForProposal_landscape copy

Bear Lake bathymetry, tributaries, and historical low (red line)… that’s a lot of habitat stranded. Map by H. Glassic of the Lake Ecology Lab

Water storage in lakes and reservoirs throughout the Intermountain West is highly sensitive to drought. Multiyear droughts may negatively affect fish spawning by leaving critical littoral habitat stranded along shorelines and by disrupting connectivity to tributaries. The loss of littoral habitat may have negative effects that cascade through aquatic ecosystems to degrade or even eliminate fisheries. We are using current and previous multiyear droughts to predict how current and future climate conditions with anticipated longer and more frequent droughts may affect littoral habitat and fishes. We are using Bear Lake, UT/ID as a model system to test whether the amount of littoral habitat available to aquatic organisms and lake-stream connectivity changes with lake elevation. We are evaluating whether reduced habitat and/or stream connectivity negatively affects the apex predators (Lake and Bonneville cutthroat trout) by reducing their forage base (e.g., reductions in cobble habitat used for spawning by endemic Bear Lake fishes such as sculpin or cisco.

Setting up habitat surveys on Bear Lake, ID/UT

Setting up habitat surveys on Bear Lake, ID/UT