Text modified from Abell et al. 2000. Freshwater Ecoregions of North America: A Conservation Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA. Additional text provided by Jennifer Hales.
Major Habitat Type
Xeric freshwaters and endorheic (closed) basins
Drainages flowing into
The Bonneville Basin is a closed drainage system that does not flow outward into any rivers or oceans.
Main rivers to other water bodies
The Sevier and Bear constitute the two largest rivers in the ecoregion. Major lakes include the Great Salt Lake,
This ecoregion corresponds to the Bonneville Basin, the single largest interior drainage in the Great Basin (Minckley et al. 1986). The ecoregion occupies much of western
This ecoregion forms part of the Great Basin, which is comprised of isolated north-south trending mountain ranges and valleys known as the Basin and
The Bonneville Basin was formerly Lake Bonneville, a large freshwater sea during the Pleistocene. Today Great Salt, Utah, and Sevier lakes are desert remnants of the former Lake Bonneville. The Great Salt Lake is the largest of these, with salinity levels that do not support fish, except near inflows of tributaries. Sevier Lake is ephemeral and when filled also is highly saline. The waters of Utah Lake, however, are relatively fresh and support fish species (Minckley et al. 1986).
Most of the ecoregion is comprised of shrub steppe, with dominant species including distinctly cold-temperate sagebrushes (Artemisia), saltbrushes (Atriplex), and winterfat (Ceratoides lanata) (Turner 1994). Coniferous forests are the dominant vegetation at the eastern edge of the ecoregion.
Description of endemic fishes
Much of the Bonneville’s distinctive biodiversity is harbored in its lakes. Bear Lake, located high in the mountains near the border of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, has four endemic fish species, all remnants of the Pleistocene-era Lake Bonneville fauna—the Bear Lake sculpin (Cottus extensus), Bear Lake whitefish (Prosopium abyssicola), Bonneville whitefish (P. spilonotus), and Bonneville cisco (P. gemmiferum). Utah Lake, located southeast of the Great Salt Lake and distinguished as the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, historically supported two endemic fish, also Lake Bonneville remnants. These are the June sucker (Chasmistes liorus), found also in the lake’s tributaries, and the now-extinct Utah Lake sculpin (Cottus echinatus). The
Justification for delineation
Ecoregion boundaries are taken from Abell et al. (2000) and are based on subregions defined by Maxwell et al. (1995).
- Abell, R.,Olson, D.,Dinerstein, E.,Hurley, P. T.,Diggs, J. T.,Eichbaum, W.,Walters, S.,Wettengel, W.,Allnutt, T.,Loucks, C. J.;Hedao, P. (2000). "Freshwater ecoregions of North America" Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
- Johnson, J. E. (1986). "Inventory of Utah crayfish with notes on current distribution" Great Basin Naturalist 46 pp. 625-631.
- Minckley, W. L., Hendrickson, D. A. and Bond, C. E. (1986). "Geography of western North American freshwater fishes: Description and relationships to intracontinental tectonism" C. H. Hocutt and E. O. Wiley (Ed.) The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes New York: John Wiley.
- Sigler, J. W. and Sigler, W. F. (1994). "Fishes of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau: Past and present forms" K. T. Harper, L. L. St. Clair, K. H. Thornes and W. M. Hess (Ed.) Natural history of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin Niwot: University of Colorado Press.
- Maxwell, J. R., Edwards, C. J., Jensen, M. E., et al. (1995) \A hierarchical framework of aquatic ecological units in North America (Nearctic Zone)\ St. Paul, MN. North Central Forest Experiment Station, USDA Forest Service.
- Turner, J. T. (1994). "Great Basin Desertscrub" D. E. Brown (Ed.) Biotic communities in southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico ( pp. 145-155 ) Salt Lake City, UT: Univerisity of Utah Press.
- Köppen, W. (1936). "Das geographische System der Klimate" Köppen W. and R. Geiger (Ed.) Handbuch der. Klimatologie ( (Vol. 1, pp. 1–44 ) Berlin, Germany: Gebrüder Borntröger.