2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM


WINTER, Thomas C., U.S. Geol Survey, Mail Stop 413 Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, CO 80225, tcwinter@usgs.gov

The Aquatic Systems Continuum is a concept that combines the Wetland Continuum concept with the Hydrologic Landscapes concept. The Wetland Continuum concept was developed to synthesize more than 25 years of field studies of a prairie pothole wetland complex in North Dakota. The concept is based on geochemical and biological responses of wetlands to ground-water flow and climate variability. Hydrologic landscapes describe the conceptual movement of water, including its exchange with the atmosphere, in all types of terrain. Hydrologic landscapes are based on relief, land-surface slope, hydraulic conductivity of rocks, and climate. Through multivariate statistics and GIS methods, hydrologic landscapes have been mapped for the United States. Combining these two concepts results in a framework for describing the geochemical and biological characteristics of all aquatic ecosystems with respect to their position within ground-water flow systems or streams, and response to climate variability. Such information is useful for setting priorities for research on ecosystems, designing environmental monitoring programs, and managing the environment. Most of the hydrologic landscapes in the Wasatch-Great Salt Lake region are arid plains, semiarid plateaus, and semi-arid to wet mountains. Rock types in nearly all of them are moderately to poorly permeable. The most discriminatory characteristics of the hydrologic landscapes in this region are related to the precipitation minus evapotranspiration balance and the percent of flat lands in the lowlands. As a result, the usefulness of the Aquatic Systems Continuum concept in this region would be most applicable to rivers and riparian ecosystems. Most watersheds contain a number of hydrologic landscapes that are transected by rivers. It is suggested that research and long-term monitoring of selected rivers as well as their associated riparian ecosystems in the various hydrologic landscapes in the Wasatch-Great salt lake region would lead to an objective way of viewing, understanding, and managing these aquatic ecosystems.