Mono LakeMono Lake
is an alkaline
and hypersaline lake in California
, United States
that is critical nesting habitat for several bird species and is one of the most productive ecosystems in North America
Mono Craters to the right of the image are rhyolitic domes. The dark colored Negit island is of volcanic origin and is somewhat less than 2000 years old. Pahoa Island is the larger and lighter colored island in the lake and was formed 300 years ago from uplift caused by magma movement. Black Point is the remnant of a cinder cone volcano that erupted under water during on of the stands of Lake Russel.
Exposed tufa towers
In order to provide water for growing Los Angeles
, water was diverted from the Owens River and then from the tributaries that fed Mono Lake (see California Water Wars). In 1941
the city of Los Angeles extended an aquaduct system into the Mono Basin, diverting water that would otherwise have entered Mono Lake. Enough water was diverted that evaporation
soon exceeded inflow and the lake level fell rapidly, exposing alkali
sands, once submerged tufa towers and turned Negit Island (dark colored island in picture - to be inserted later
) into a peninsula, exposing the nests of gulls to coyotes
. University of California, Davis
graduate student David Gains in 1976 earned his masters degree studying the Mono lake ecosystem and was instrumental in alterting the public of the effects of the lower water level. Efforts have since been made to redivert water back into the lake. However, the lake is still lower than historic levels and exposed shorelines are a source of significant alkali
dust during periods of high winds. Owens Lake
, which sustained a similar ecosystem, completely dried up because of water diversions. Mono Lake was spared the same fate on September 28
, when the California State Water Resources Control Board issued an order to protect Mono Lake and its tributary streams. Since that time the lake level has steadily rose; in 1941 the lake level was at 6417 feet above sea level, as of 2002
it was at 6385 feet, and the goal is to have lake level rise to 6392 feet above sea level.
Mono Lake is a vital resting and eating stop for migratory shorebirds and has been recognized as an International Reserve in the Western Hemisphere Reserve Network. Nearly 2,000,000 waterbirds, including 35 species of shorebirds, use Mono Lake to rest and eat for at least part of the year. Some shorebirds that depend on the resources of Mono Lake include avocets, killdeer, and sandpipers. Over 1.5 million eared grebes and phalaropes use Mono during their long migrations.
Every summer tens of thousands of Wilson's Phalaropes arrive from their nesting grounds.
Important species that reside in the lake
- Alkali fly (Ephydra hians)
- brine shrimp (Artemia monica)
- California gull (Larus californicus)
See also: Inyo and Mono Craters
, , Photo of glacial Mono Lake's shoreline ()