EPA Science Inventory

Drawdown Effects on Lake and Reservoir Physical Habitat - a National Picture

Citation:

Kaufmann, P., D. Peck, AND C. Seeliger. Drawdown Effects on Lake and Reservoir Physical Habitat - a National Picture. Presented at 2014 Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting, Portland, OR, May 18 - 23, 2014.

Description:

Structural complexity at the land-water interface of lakes promotes interchange of water, nutrients and energy; and provides diverse habitat for aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Shoreline zones are hot-spots for both biological diversity and human activity. Lake level fluctuations in lakes of the U.S. EPA’s National Lakes Assessment summer surveys were evidenced by "bathtub rings" extending 0 to >100m horizontally. Lake drawdown magnitudes differed among regions of the U.S., and between natural and human-made lakes. Anthropogenic disturbances and level controls were positively associated with drawdown in some regions, but appeared to dampen natural level fluctuations in others. Littoral habitat complexity diminished as drawdown exposed previously littoral habitat features including snags, overhanging vegetation, and aquatic macrophytes. Similarly, near-shore terrestrial vegetation cover and complexity were typically low where drawdown had increased the distance from the land-water interface to terrestrial vegetation at the normal high water mark. Climate change and human use of lakeshores can reduce near-shore habitat complexity through level changes and other mechanisms. Where large drawdowns are unavoidable, management should focus on maintaining structural complexity within the zone of drawdown.

Purpose/Objective:

Constructed reservoirs, natural lakes, and the streams feeding them serve as sources of water for human activities. Population increases and climate change have great potential to lower lake and reservoir levels in many regions of the U.S. Lake shoreline zones are hot-spots for biological diversity, ecological processes, and human activity. Complex physical habitat at these land-water interfaces promotes interchange of water, nutrients and energy; and provides diverse habitat for aquatic and terrestrial organisms alike. Reductions in near-shore habitat complexity can therefore have deleterious impacts on the ecological integrity of lakes and their riparian areas. Using field survey data from EPA’s National Lakes Assessment, the authors examine the associations between physical habitat and lake level drawdown. They report that littoral habitat complexity was diminished where drawdown had exposed previously inundated littoral habitat features including snags, overhanging vegetation, and aquatic macrophytes. Similarly, near-shore terrestrial vegetation cover and complexity were typically low where drawdown had increased the distance from the land-water interface to terrestrial vegetation at the normal high water mark. Lake-level reductions resulting from increased human use of water possibly exacerbated by climate change can therefore reduce near-shore habitat complexity. Lake ecological integrity would be fostered by minimizing anthropogenic drawdown, but where large drawdowns are unavoidable, the authors recommend that management should focus on maintaining structural complexity within the zone of drawdown.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/ABSTRACT)
Completion Date: 05/27/2014
Record Last Revised: 05/27/2014
Record Created: 05/27/2014
Record Released: 05/27/2014
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 276904

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

FRESHWATER ECOLOGY BRANCH