This is the content of the third in a 3-part sign array on Auke Lake Trail. See also the other 2 panels: Auke1 intro and Auke2 geo
Life of the lake
In biology as in geology, Auke Lake is surprisingly dynamic for a bedrock-controlled basin enclosed mostly by old-growth forest. Here are some trends that have been noted:
• western toad–formerly abundant, now almost extinct
• common loon–declining
• prickly sculpin–dramatic increase
• freshwater mussel (Anodonta) & stickleback–declining
• pond lily (Nuphar polysephalum)–declining
• sockeyes, cutthroats, Dolly Varden–declining
• dates of ice-out–earlier
We can guess at reasons for some of these trends; the others remain mysterious. Several of the trends are probably interrelated. As recently as the 1970s, tiny toadlets used to crawl out of the marshy margins in uncountable thousands at summer’s end. Their crash is attributed in part to a chytrid fungus. But could those 6-inch prickly sculpins swarming in the pond-lily fringe–rare or absent in the 1970s–have vacuumed up the last western toad larvae?
When hunting season commences, Auke Lake becomes a daytime loafing area for hundreds of Canada geese and mallards. At night, they often fly directly over the runway approach space to feed on salt marsh vegetation in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge.
Home for 10 millennia
Auke Lake didn’t exist when the first humans paddled into “Mendenhall Bay.” Sagebrush-covered hills descended to berg-strewn beaches. Since the time of those Paleomarine seal-hunters, climates, landforms, habitats and species have been in continual flux, but people always adapted.
Today, the rate of change is faster than humans have ever experienced. Survival depends more than ever on intimate knowledge of terrestrial and marine environments. Four decades of research by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) at Auke Lake–a “benchmark” study site–has contributed to this understanding.
Download the PDF of this document here.