Great Salt Lake Playa Foodweb Project

This web page class project was created by students enrolled in General Ecology at Westminster College in Salt Lake City during Fall Semester 1999.  The project was under the supervision of Dr. A. T. Harrison, Biology Department.  E-mail Address:;  Address: 1840 S. 1300 E. Salt Lake City, Utah 84105.  Telephone: 801-488-4232 (Office); 801-255-3167 (Home)

The information here expands a similar 1998 class project about  the Great Salt Lake itself: 

To view a slideshow of the typical shoreline plants found at Blackrock Beach of Great Salt Lake click here: Black Rock Beach

The ecology students involved in this project were: 
Jiselle Jones :  Pickleweed
Paige Walker:  Iodinebush
Shazia A. Arshad:  Saltgrass 
Carrie D. Marshall: Insects 
Marci A. Vogel:  Voles 
Jaimie M. Van Norman: Badger
Egan A. Rowe:  Snowy Plover
Millicent T. Solano:  Northern Harrier
Sunnie E. Holland:  Savanna Sparrow
Shelley J. Brown:  American Avocet 
Tyler Logan:  Great Salt Lake Hydrological Model
A. T. Harrison:  Greasewood
Shazia A. Arshad:  Halophyte Belt Transect

These organisms were chosen to represent the major players in the food web of the Great Salt Lake Playa ecosystem.  The objective of this class project was to illustrate the interesting ecological interrelationships of  organisms along the shoreline of Great Salt Lake.  Hopefully, this project  will provide a better understanding and greater appreciation to students,  residents and visitors to Great Salt Lake, one of the most interesting ecosystems in the world.

By clicking on the above organisms you can learn more about each one and it's role in the Great Salt Lake Playa Ecosystem. 

By continuing down this introductory page, you will get an overview of the ecology of the Great Salt Lake Playa system.


The following food web diagram illustrates some of the feeding relationships of the featured organisms.  The arrows represent energy and mineral movement between the Great Salt Lake Playa species.   Squares represent the plants or primary producers,  circles are the herbivores or primary consumers, and triangles are the omnivores and secondary consumers.  Unconfirmed or unknown feeding relationships are indicated by question marks.

Scan down on this page for an overview of the project 
and to see some of the other organisms which live in the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.


The above illustration originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, October 26, 1998.  It shows the most common birds and plants of the Great Salt Lake Playa and gives typical soil salinity levels along the playa edge.

The large map above is from Great Salt Lake : a Scientific, Historical and Economic Overview , Editor,  J. Wallace Gwynn, June 1980, Utah Dept. of Natural Resources Bulletin 116.  It shows the major vegetation types surrounding Great Salt Lake.  The area designated as "Salt flat" on the map (medium shading) often contains pickleweed,  iodine bush, and saltgrass around the margins of the salt flats.  The Upland vegetation type near the shoreline of Great Salt Lake (lightest shading) often contains greasewood and salt grass as well as other salt tolerant species.

The Great Salt Lake Draft Comprehensive Management Plan document was published on November 3, 1999.  It was prepared by the Great Salt Lake Planning Team of the Utah Department of Natural Resources as a future planning document and copies are available from that agency in Salt Lake City.  It contains important, up to date, background information on Great Salt Lake hydrology, chemistry, water quality, air quality, biology, ecosystem function, minerals, recreation, commercial and Industrial uses, management alternatives, etc.