Lakes, rivers, and wetlands

Elk Island National Park

The lakes, rivers, and wetlands of Elk Island National Park are an essential component of the park’s ecological integrity.

Much of Alberta’s geography was shaped by the retreat of glaciers that covered this region more than 10,000 years ago. The Beaver Hills are a glacial moraine which was formed when three glaciers met and melted. The hills are characterised by “knob and kettle” topography – a mixture of hills and hollows formed by glacial debris. Retreating glaciers left pockets of buried ice that created the many lakes, wetlands, and ponds that dot Elk Island today.

From tiny to birds to the large mammals like moose, aquatic ecosystems support a variety of habitats and life forms in the park. Five ecological indicators are monitored to ensure the health of the lakes, rivers and wetlands within the park:

Lake water quality

Water quality is a great indicator for the ecological integrity of a lake and its ability to provide healthy habitats for flora and fauna.

Beaver abundance and distribution

Beavers are significant to the health of wetlands in Elk Island. By flooding low lying areas and maintaining water levels during droughts the beaver is a...

Amphibian occupancy

The frog’s sensitivity to changes in their environment make them a great first indicator for possible problems with wetland ecosystems.

Aerial extent and distribution of open water

Monitoring the extent of open water allows us to measure water levels that affect the vegetation structure, animal habitats and primary productivity.

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