Oneida Lake: Long-term Dynamics of a Managed Ecosystem and Its Fishery

Chapter 4: Watershed, Climate, and Lake Level Manipulations

Rebecca L. Schneider, Marilyn S. Mayer, and Travis C. Hall

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874431.ch4

Oneida Lake is the literal and symbolic centerpiece of its 3,579 km2 watershed, neatly dissecting it into northern and southern halves (Figure 1). The two resulting drainage basins are roughly equal in size and similar in geological origin but differ considerably in climatological characteristics and land cover patterns. As a result they exert very different influences on Oneida Lake. Understanding how the two halves of the watershed differ and how they interact to influence the Oneida Lake ecosystem is critical for a thorough understanding of the lake’s ecology. In addition, Oneida Lake is uniquely positioned both at the eastern border of the Finger Lakes–Lake Ontario watershed and the western edge of the Mohawk–Hudson River Valley system (Jackson Chapter 3). Thus situated, it has provided an important bridge that facilitates the movement of humans, cargo, and organisms from the Atlantic Ocean to the midwestern United States and from the Great Lakes inland. Past and current management practices, especially canal and dam construction and lake level management, have resulted in significant impacts on Oneida Lake’s ecology and environment. Understanding the influences of these practices is important for the development of sound management strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of Oneida Lake and, as the heart of the watershed, to the economic vitality of the surrounding communities.