A basic knowledge of the physical and chemical characteristics of lakes is needed by management to make informed decisions to protect water resources. In this study we investigated some of the physical and chemical characteristics of 58 lakes in alpine, subalpine, and forest vegetation zones in a natural area (North Cascades National Park Service Complex) between 1989 and 1993. The objectives of the study were to: (1) document the time of ice-out relative to lake elevation; (2) determine how a sharp climate gradient west and east of the hydrologic divide affected the time of ice-out for subalpine lakes; and (3) assess how lake water quality was associated with lake elevation, lake depth, and basin geology. As expected, lake ice-out times occurred earlier with decreasing elevation. East-slope subalpine lakes iced-out earlier than did west-slope subalpine lakes because the east slope of the study area was drier and warmer than the west slope. On average, the lakes were relatively cold, neutral in pH, and low in dissolved substances and concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus. Although some shallow lakes (depth ,10 m) exhibited the highest alkalinities, conductivities, and concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen, most shallow lakes exhibited low values for these variables that were comparable to values observed in deep lakes. Geology did not play a major role in segregating the lakes based on water quality. Overall, lake temperature, pH,
alkalinity, conductivity, and concentrations of total phosphorus and total Kjeldahl N increased with decreasing elevation. These changes in water quality with decreasing elevation in this temperate mountainous region corresponded with warmer air temperatures and increased vegetation biomass, soil depth and maturity, and dissolved substances and nutrients.
Additional publication details
Integrating physical and chemical characteristics of lakes into the glacially influenced landscape of the Northern Cascade Mountains, Washington State, USA