Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Mono Lake has been on my list of places to go for perhaps 25 years. It's not really on the way to anywhere, and it's not much of a destination itself, so it took me a while to make my way to it.
My fascination is that isn't a municipal water source itself, but had its inlets diverted to provide water for Los Angeles. Mono Lake is twice as salty and 100 times more alkaline than the ocean, so you'd never drink it. Diverting its water resulted in the lake shrinking, the calcium carbonate "tufas" becoming exposed, and the ecology of the lake being pushed towards its limit.
John Muir writes of brine flies being an inch think at the water's edge. Nowadays, they still swarm up as you walk by, but they aren't in the massive clouds that the lake once supported. Waterbirds eat them, their larvae and pupas, and the brine shrimp that are native here. I wonder how much biomass the lake will support when its "restored?"
Mono Lake is now legally protected, and refilling slowly, back to its 1941 level. It'll be slightly less alkaline then. The flies will probably come back in more numbers, and the simple food chain the lake supports won't be any more diverse, but it won't be quite as stressed.
Posted by Robert van de Walle