Great Salt Lake Ecosystem

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Great Salt Lake Ecosystem

The Great Salt Lake is the remnant of Lake Bonneville that covered much of Western Utah and parts of Nevada and Idaho during the Pleistocene Era. It is a terminal lake, three and a half to eight times saltier than the oceans, which supports brine shrimp and flies along with algae and bacteria that have adapted specially to this extreme environment. It has three contributing rivers that flow into it, the Bear, Provo/Jordan, and the Weber. There are no fish that can survive in the lake, but it has become a resting ground for some two to five million migratory birds making it an important bird refuge (United States Geological Survey, 2013). Although the saltiness and general lack of organisms would make the Lake to appear as simple it is a fragile, complex ecosystem.
Structural and Functional Dynamics of Great Salt Lake
The structure of the Great Salt Lake lends to very dramatic changes in the size and volume of the lake with even small changes in water amounts. The Lake only averages 14-16 feet in depth with the deepest part around 34 feet, and an elevation of 4200 feet above sea level. At its lowest point of 4191.35 in 1963, or just eight feet lower than its historic average, the Lake saw a decrease of surface area from 1700 square miles to 950 square miles (United States Geological Survey, 2013). With just an increase of 11.6 feet of elevation the surface area jumped to more than 3300 square miles. The Lake serves the millions of migratory birds with its numerous wetlands that function as a resting spot to eat the brine flies.
Human Effects of Cycles
Because Great Salt Lake has recently become an economic interest to companies it is only recently that attention has been paid to the cycles that the Lake has and data is only now being collected. Human effects have been seen elsewhere as in the salinity of the Lake. In 1959 a…...

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