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Grand Teton National Park Report

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Since the construction of the first dam at the Snake River outlet at Jackson Lake in the early 1900's, the littoral habitat has been subjected to numerous perturbations of varying intensities. Changing water levels, a consequence of reservoir drawdown schedules, alter plant community species composition and distribution over time. From the perspective of a plant, water level changes present a challenge to growth and community persistence. A plant which begins the growing season 2 m deep may be under 4 m of water after spring runoff fills the reservoir. Later in the summer, the same plant may be left at a depth of only 1 m as water is removed from the reservoir during summer drawdown. The magnitude and timing of water level fluctuations may be one of the most important factors regulating macrophyte community processes upslope on the vertical gradient in Jackson Lake (Brewer and Parker 1990). Under normal regulation, annual changes of 3-4 m are sufficient to select for a plant community with a typically weedy phenology (e.g., Elodea canadensis). In natural lakes with substantially lower annual changes in water levels, species that produce seeds annually are favored (e.g., Potamogeton species). Moreover, drawdowns greater than several meters substantially reduce the lake bed area suitable for the development of extensive shallow water plant beds. The most recent perturbations to the littoral habitat in Jackson Lake began in 1978, when the water level was lowered first from 2065 m (normal pool) to somewhere between 2060 - 2062 m. Then in 1985, the surface elevation of Jackson Lake was further lowered to 2057 m to facilitate repair and modification of the Jackson Lake dam. The entire lake bed was seriously impacted during the four years that the dam was being restored. While the lake bed in the borrow zone and the area adjacent to the dam were obviously impacted by repair activities, the entire shallow littoral zone was severely perturbed when previously inundated sediments were exposed for four years. In 1989, repair was completed and the reservoir was allowed to fill back to the normal pool elevation of 2065 m. Because of severe impacts to the littoral habitat and significant reduction of the submergent plant community caused by restoration of the dam, the status of the aquatic plant community was monitored during the summers of 1989-1991. This report summarizes the status of the aquatic plant community three years after repair of the dam was completed.