Large Lakes Limnology
The Large Lakes Limnology project encompasses the three largest
lakes in the Flathead River watershed. These lakes include Swan
Lake, Whitefish Lake, and Flathead Lake.
Limnology of Flathead
Collaborators: Charles Levitan, Sierra College, Nevada, Dale Chess, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Craig Stafford, The University of Montana
Montana Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the Flathead Lake Biological Station
Various aspects of the limnology of Flathead Lake have been described
in numerous technical reports and journal publications. However,
we are currently in the process of synthesizing the 20+ year database
into at least 3 major publications. The synthesis will include the
- Long-term patterns of water, light and heat flux,
- Food web change mediated by the introduction of non-native
- Determinants of the long-term pattern in primary productivity.
More information will be available shortly. For a brief synopsis
of the limnology of Flathead Lake, see the
included PDF file (,
23 kB) with excerpts from a book chapter by Stanford and
Stanford, J. A. and B. K. Ellis. 2003. Natural
and cultural influences on ecosystems processes in the Flathead
River Basin (Montana, British Columbia). Pp 269-284.
IN: Baron, J. S. (Editors). Rocky Mountain Futures: An Ecological
Perspective. Island Press, Covelo, California, USA. 325 pp.
Spencer, C. N. and B. K. Ellis. 1998. Role
of nutrients and zooplankton in regulation of phytoplankton in Flathead
Lake (Montana, USA), a large oligotrophic lake.
Freshwater Biology 39(4): 755-763.
Stanford, J. A., B. K. Ellis, J. A. Craft and G. C. Poole.
1997. Water quality data and analyses
to aid in the development of revised water quality targets for Flathead
Lake, Montana. Open File Report
142-97. Flathead Lake Biological Station, The University of
Montana, Polson. Prepared for the Flathead Basin Commission,
Kalispell and Helena, Montana. 154 pp. + appendices.
Stanford, J. A. and J. V. Ward. 1992. Management
of aquatic resources in large catchments: Recognizing interactions
between ecosystem connectivity and environmental disturbance,
pp. 91-124. IN: Naiman, R. J. (ed.), Watershed
Management. Springer-Verlag, New York.
Dodds, W. K., B. K. Ellis and J. C. Priscu. 1991.
Zooplankton induced decrease in inorganic phosphorus uptake by plankton
in an oligotrophic lake. Hydrobiologia
Dodds, W. K., J. C. Priscu and B. K. Ellis. 1991. Seasonal
uptake and regeneration of inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus in
a large oligotrophic lake: size-fractionation and antibiotic treatment.
Journal of Plankton Research 13(6): 1339-1358.
Spencer, C. N. and B. K. Ellis. 1990. Co-limitation
by phosphorus and nitrogen, and effects of zooplankton mortality,
on phytoplankton in Flathead Lake, Montana, U.S.A.
Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 24: 206-209.
Ellis, B. K. and J. A. Stanford. 1982. Comparative
photoheterotrophy, chemoheterotrophy and photolithotrophy in a eutrophic
reservoir and an oligotrophic lake. Limnology
and Oceanography 27(3): 440-454
of Whitefish Lake
Understanding the ecology of large oligotrophic
lakes and the interactions between the physical, chemical and biological
components of each lake is very difficult due to the ever-changing
pieces of the puzzle. To better understand the long-term responses
of the Flathead Lake ecosystem to environmental change, it is beneficial
to investigate other large lakes in the area including Whitefish
and Swan Lakes.
We are fortunate that the city of Whitefish is
also interested in the ecology of Whitefish Lake. The Whitefish
Sewer and Water District, a public entity devoted to “maintaining
and/or enhancing water quality in the District”, has funded
the Flathead Lake Biological Station on three occasions to assess
the trophic status of Whitefish Lake. Through the use of our research
they can make informed management decisions for future development
and restoration in the area based on the response by Whitefish Lake
to past development in the area. This is especially important now
because the State of Montana (Department of Environmental Quality)
is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to establish
recommended Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for Whitefish Lake.
The findings from the current study will be critical to the development
of the TMDL for Whitefish Lake.
A synopsis of studies on Swan Lake will be available