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Limnology of a Large, Deep, North American Terminal Lake, Pyramid Lake, Nevada, U.S.A

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Hydrobiologia, Volume 82, p.281-317 (1981)


Lake morphology; Lake stages; Lakes; Limnology; Nevada; Pyramid Lake; Saline lakes; Saline lakes; Limnology; Pyramid Lake; Nevada; Lakes; Lake stages; Lake morphology


This paper seeks to update earlier reports on Pyramid Lake and to compare this lake with other athalassic saline lakes and synthesize past studies into a more holistic treatment. Pyramid Lake occupies a large, north-south oriented graben wholly within the boundaries of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation in northwestern Nevada. The eastern shore is abruptly determined by the Lake Range 's fault scarp, while the western shore is bounded by the Virginia Range. The headwaters of the Truckee River, the only permanent water source, arise in the Sierra Nevada mountains of eastern California and western Nevada. Although classified as saline, this lake does not fill all the characteristics of that classification. About the only characteristic that the Pyramid Lake shares with all athalassic saline lakes is its lack of outflow. The allochthonous contributions from the Truckee River figure significantly in Pyramid 's dynamics. Certainly the reproductive success of the anadromous fishes depends on this river. The composition of the benthic substrate is quite homogeneous, but the shoreline development is high, unlike many other saline waters. The vertical water column provides substantial spatial heterogeneity , not noted in shallower, polymictic saline waters. The lake does not contain a well-developed macrophyte community. It is concluded that the lake does not fix large amounts of energy, providing an exception to the generalization that saline lakes are highly productive. The rich biological community of the lake is a dramatic departure from the low species diversity classically associated with inland saline waters.