Sedimentation rates in the marshes of Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge

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Impoundments located within river systems in the Northern Great Plains are vulnerable to sediment inputs because intensive agriculture in watersheds has increased soil erosion and sediments in rivers. At the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), we evaluated the vertical accretion of sediment in the Mud Lake impoundment of Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Brown County, South Dakota. The Mud Lake impoundment was created in 1936 by constructing a low-head dam across the James River. We collected sediment cores from the Mud Lake impoundment during August 2000 for determination of vertical accretion rates. Accretion rates were estimated using cesium-13 7 and lead-210 isotopic dating techniques to estimate sediment accretion over the past 100 years. Accretion rates were greatest near the dam (1.3 cm yr-1) with less accretion (0.2 cm yr-1) occurring in the upper reaches of Mud Lake. As expected, accretion was highest near the dam where water velocities and greater water depth facilitates sediment deposition. Higher rates of sedimentation (accretion> 2.0 cm year-1) occurred during the 1990s when river flows were especially high. Since 1959, sediment accretion has reduced maximum pool depth of Mud Lake near the dam by 55 cm. Assuming that sediment accretion rates remain the same in the future, we project Mud Lake will have a maximum pool depth of 77 and 51 cm by 2020 and 2040, respectively. Over this same time frame, water depths in the upper reaches of Mud Lake would be reduced to< 2 cm. Projected future loss of water depth will severely limit the ability of managers to manipulate pool levels in Mud Lake to cycle vegetation and create interspersion of cover and water to meet current wildlife habitat management objectives. As predicted for major dams constructed on rivers throughout the world, Mud Lake will have a finite life span. Our data suggests that the functional life span of Mud Lake since construction will be < 100 years. We anticipate that over the next 20 years, sediments entering Mud Lake will reduce water depths to the point that current wildlife management objectives cannot be achieved through customary water-level manipulations. Sedimentation impacts are not unique to the Sand Lake NWR. It is widely accepted that impoundments trap sediments and shallow impoundments, such as those managed by the FWS, are especially vulnerable. Given the ecological impacts associated with loss of water depths, we recommend that managers begin evaluating the long-term wildlife management goals for the refuge relative to associated costs and feasibility of options available to enhance and maximize the life span of existing impoundments, including upper watershed management.

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Sedimentation rates in the marshes of Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Publisher location Jamestown, ND
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 27 p.
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