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Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5098

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Literature Review and Database of Relations Between Salinity and Aquatic Biota: Applications to Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

By Robert A. Gleason, Brian A. Tangen, Murray K. Laubhan, Raymond G. Finocchiaro, and John F. Stamm

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Long-term accumulation of salts in wetlands at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Mont., has raised concern among wetland managers that increasing salinity may threaten plant and invertebrate communities that provide important habitat and food resources for migratory waterfowl. Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is evaluating various water management strategies to help maintain suitable ranges of salinity to sustain plant and invertebrate resources of importance to wildlife. To support this evaluation, the USFWS requested that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provide information on salinity ranges of water and soil for common plants and invertebrates on Bowdoin NWR lands. To address this need, we conducted a search of the literature on occurrences of plants and invertebrates in relation to salinity and pH of the water and soil. The compiled literature was used to (1) provide a general overview of salinity concepts, (2) document published tolerances and adaptations of biota to salinity, (3) develop databases that the USFWS can use to summarize the range of reported salinity values associated with plant and invertebrate taxa, and (4) perform database summaries that describe reported salinity ranges associated with plants and invertebrates at Bowdoin NWR. The purpose of this report is to synthesize information to facilitate a better understanding of the ecological relations between salinity and flora and fauna when developing wetland management strategies. A primary focus of this report is to provide information to help evaluate and address salinity issues at Bowdoin NWR; however, the accompanying databases, as well as concepts and information discussed, are applicable to other areas or refuges. The accompanying databases include salinity values reported for 411 plant taxa and 330 invertebrate taxa. The databases are available in Microsoft Excel version 2007 ( and contain 27 data fields that include variables such as taxonomic identification, values for salinity and pH, wetland classification, location of study, and source of data. The databases are not exhaustive of the literature and are biased toward wetland habitats located in the glaciated North-Central United States; however, the databases do encompass a diversity of biota commonly found in brackish and freshwater inland wetland habitats.

Posted July 6, 2009

For additional information contact:
Director, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey
8711 37th Street Southeast
Jamestown, North Dakota 58401
(701) 253-5500

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Suggested citation:

Gleason, R.A., Tangen, B.A., Laubhan, M.K., Finocchiaro, R.G., and Stamm, J.F., 2009, Literature review and database of relations between salinity and aquatic biota—applications to Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5098, 76 p.




Purpose and Scope

Description of Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge


Primer on Salinity Concepts

Tolerances and Adaptations of Biota to Salinity

Database Summary Statistics

Application to Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge




Appendix 1. Plant Taxa Identified at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge

Appendix 2. Invertebrate Taxa Identified at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge

Appendix 3. Description of Variables Found in the Plant and Invertebrate Databases

Appendix 4. Description of Each Data Source Used to Develop the Plant and Invertebrate Databases

Appendix 5. Summary of Plant Database

Appendix 6. Summary of Invertebrate Database

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