More than a few of us are antsy to get outside and enjoy water that’s not in frozen form.Many of our warm-weather recreational activities center around water. From rivers to wetlands to high mountain lakes, our region is full of a wide range of aquatic ecosystems. Those planning to play around them in the coming months can learn more about these bodies of water in a talk given by Fred Rabe, University of Idaho emeritus professor of biology, at 7 p.m. today in Moscow.
“People are interested in identifying birds, plants and other natural subjects — well, why not add aquatic ecosystems?” Rabe said.
There’s more to water bodies than lakes and rivers. Most people, Rabe said, are familiar with the larger lakes in the region, including Dworshak Reservoir and Lake Coeur d’Alene. These, along with local rivers, are popular places for recreation and Rabe will discuss each.
But Rabe will also discuss little-known water bodies, like vernal pools. These are temporary ponds that appear in the spring with the rain and melting snow and dry up in the summer, Rabe said. Though most people don’t know what they are, they are more than just a glorified mud puddle; vernal pools contain an ecosystem that can include types of freshwater shrimp that have adapted to survive the dry and cold seasons.
Beaver ponds are another water body present in northern Idaho, though they’re few and far between. They come and go every 20 years or so, Rabe said, based on the aspens, willows and other trees that the animal depends on for food. As beavers eat up the food source in an area, they move onto another in a cycle that affects both water and plant ecosystems.
Most people wouldn’t think to look for swamps in northern Idaho, but they’re here too. You’ll find one of these standing bodies of water north of Priest Lake near Canada, Rabe said. Swamps fall into the category of wetlands, along with peatlands, marshes and wet meadows, each of which have their own characteristics. Peatlands are especially common in northern Idaho, Rabe said, where cool and wet conditions create a thick layer of peat.
High mountain lakes, streams and waterfalls also have their own ecosystems and classifications, which will be mentioned in the talk.
“We just want people to get out to see some of these areas,” Rabe said.
Though the talk won’t cover exact locations to find each aquatic ecosystem, Rabe said a Forest Service map should help people find some of these features and a handout, provided at the talk, will help them identify what they encounter as they’re out recreating.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Diversity of Aquatic Ecosystem Types in Northern Idaho”
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: 1912 Center, Great Room, 412 E. Third St., Moscow
COST: Free; small seed packets of various native plants will be available, provided by Idaho Native Plant Society White Pine Chapter members