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Center for Spatial Information and Research

Ecological Characterization and Comparison of Lake Types in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Washington

The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1944, is located in the heart of the Columbia Basin, a region characterized as a semi-arid shrub-steppe environment with rainfall at less than 8 inches per year. As a result of groundwater seepage from the Columbia Irrigation Project (CIP) established in 1949, hundreds of lakes and ponds were subsequently created in low-lying depressions and coulees of the refuge. The goal of this project was to ecologically classify, characterize and compare the structural and functional aspects of various lake types existing within the refuge. Using a combination of aerial photo and GIS layer interpretation, field observations, and descriptive and historical data previously collected through the refuge, the refuge lakes were classified into various types based on hydrologic characteristics, size, water chemistry, and whether the lakes pre-dated the CIP. Representative reference sites were established for four general lake types, in order to ecologically characterize the physical, biological and chemical parameters typically found in each lake. The lake types include freshwater drainage lakes pre-existing and created by the CIP, a created freshwater seepage lake, and a seepage alkali lake representing pre-CIP conditions. Field data, collected between November 2004 and October 2005, was used to assess the relationship between lake types and environmental conditions, including differences in characteristics such as water quality (temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, and clarity), nutrient levels, sediment composition, and aquatic vegetation. Baseline data gathered from this project will aid in management decisions affecting recreational use of lakes and the surrounding habitat within the refuge.

Related Publications:

Bader, J., and A. Gabriel. 2006. Ecological classification and comparison of lake types in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Washington. Presented at the Pacific Northwest Regional Conference, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, Sept. 13-15, 2006.

Bader, J., and A. Gabriel. 2006. Ecological classification and comparison of lake types in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Washington. Presented at the Northwest Scientific Association Annual Meeting, Boise, Idaho, March 6-8, 2006.

Justin Bader. 2006. An Ecological Comparison and Classification of Lakes within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Washington. Unpublished M.Sc. thesis, Resource Management Program, Central Washington University.