, Volume 197, Issue 1, pp 139–146 | Cite as

Changes in lake levels, salinity and the biological community of Great Salt Lake (Utah, USA), 1847–1987

  • Doyle W. Stephens


Great Salt Lake is the fourth largest terminal lake in the world, with an area of about 6000 square kilometers at its historic high elevation. Since its historic low elevation of 1277.52 meters in 1963, the lake has risen to a new historic high elevation of 1283.77 meters in 1986–1987, a net increase of about 6.25 meters. About 60 percent of this increase, 3.72 meters, has occurred since 1982 in response to greater than average precipitation and less than average evaporation.

Variations in salinity have resulted in changes in the composition of the aquatic biological community which consists of bacteria, protozoa, brine shrimp and brine flies. These changes were particularly evident following the completion of a causeway in 1959 which divided the lake. Subsequent salinities in the north part of the lake have ranged from 16 to 29 percent and in the south part from 6 to 28 percent.

Accompanying the rise in lake elevation from 1982 to 1987 have been large decreases in salinity of both parts of the lake. This has resulted in changes in the biota from obligate halophiles, such as Dunaliella salina and D. viridis, to opportunistic forms such as a blue-green alga (Nodularia spumigena). The distribution and abundance of brine shrimp (Artemia salina) in the lake also have followed closely the salinity. In 1986, when the salinity of the south part of the lake was about 6 percent, a population of brackish-water killifish (Lucania parva) was observed along the shore near inflow from a spring.

Key words

brine salinity brine shrimp brine algae halophiles 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doyle W. Stephens
    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveySalt Lake CityUSA

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