Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Mono Lake'
Start a new discussion about 'Mono Lake'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Mono Lake (ˈmoʊnoʊ ) is a large, shallow saline lake
Salt lake
A salt lake or saline lake is a landlocked body of water which has a concentration of salts and other dissolved minerals significantly higher than most lakes . In some cases, salt lakes have a higher concentration of salt than sea water, but such lakes would also be termed hypersaline lakes...

 in Mono County
Mono County, California
Mono County is a county located in the east central portion of the U.S. state of California, to the east of the Sierra Nevada between Yosemite National Park and Nevada. As of the 2010 census, the population was 14,202, up from 12,853 at the 2000 census...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean. Because it lacks an outlet, dissolved salts make the lake very alkaline
Alkalinity
Alkalinity or AT measures the ability of a solution to neutralize acids to the equivalence point of carbonate or bicarbonate. The alkalinity is equal to the stoichiometric sum of the bases in solution...

 and saline
Hypersaline lake
A hypersaline lake is a landlocked body of water that contains significant concentrations of sodium chloride or other mineral salts, with saline levels surpassing that of ocean water . Specific microbial and crustacean species thrive in these high salinity environments that are otherwise...

.

This desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 based on brine shrimp
Brine shrimp
Artemia is a genus of aquatic crustaceans known as brine shrimp. Artemia, the only genus in the family Artemiidae, has changed little externally since the Triassic period...

 that thrive in its waters, and provides critical nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp. Mono Lake is also notable for containing GFAJ-1
GFAJ-1
GFAJ-1 is a strain of rod-shaped bacterium in the family Halomonadaceae. The extremophile was isolated from the hypersaline and alkaline Mono Lake in eastern California by a research team led by NASA astrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon...

, a rod-shaped extremophilic
Extremophile
An extremophile is an organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth. In contrast, organisms that live in more moderate environments may be termed mesophiles or neutrophiles...

 species of bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 that may be capable of metabolizing
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

 the usually poisonous element arsenic
Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

.

The human history of Mono Lake is associated with its productive ecosystem. The native Kutzadika'a
Kucadikadi
The Kucadikadi are a band of Northern Paiute people who live near Mono Lake in Mono County, California. They are the southernmost band of Northern Paiute.-Name:...

 people derived nutrition from the larvae of the alkaline flies
Ephydridae
Ephydridae is a family of insects in the order Diptera.Shore flies are tiny flies that can be found near seashores or at smaller inland waters, such as ponds...

 that live in the lake. When the city of Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 diverted water from flowing into the lake, it lowered the lake level, which imperiled the migratory
Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

 birds. The Mono Lake Committee
Mono Lake Committee
The Mono Lake Committee is an environmental organization based in Lee Vining, California in the United States. Its mission is to preserve Mono Lake, by reducing diversions of water from the Eastern Sierra watersheds by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power .The Committee was founded in...

 formed in response, winning a legal battle that forced Los Angeles to partially restore the lake level.

Geology


Mono Lake formed because it lies in the Mono Basin
Mono Basin
The Mono Basin is an endorheic drainage basin located east of Yosemite National Park in California and Nevada. It is bordered to the west by the Sierra Nevada, to the east by the Cowtrack Mountains, to the north by the Bodie Hills, and to the south by the north ridge of the Long Valley...

, an endorheic basin that has no outlet to the ocean. Dissolved salts in the runoff thus remain in the lake and raise the water's pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 levels and salt concentration. The tributaries of Mono Lake include Lee Vining Creek
Lee Vining Creek
Lee Vining Creek is a stream in Mono County, California, flowing into the endorheic basin of Mono Lake. It is the second largest stream flowing into the lake, after Rush Creek....

, Rush Creek and Mill Creek
Mill Creek (Mono Lake)
Mill Creek is a perennial stream that flows east from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range into Mono Lake, in Mono County, California. It courses through Lundy Canyon and Lundy Lake, before passing through Mono City, California on its way to Mono Lake....

 which flows through Lundy Canyon.

The basin was created by geological forces over the last five million years: basin and range
Basin and Range
The Basin and Range Province is a vast physiographic region defined by a unique topographic expression. Basin and Range topography is characterized by abrupt changes in elevation, alternating between narrow faulted mountain chains and flat arid valleys or basins...

 crustal stretching and associated volcanism
Volcanism
Volcanism is the phenomenon connected with volcanoes and volcanic activity. It includes all phenomena resulting from and causing magma within the crust or mantle of a planet to rise through the crust and form volcanic rocks on the surface....

 and faulting at the base of the Sierra Nevada. Five million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was an eroded set of rolling hills and Mono Basin and Owens Valley did not yet exist.

From 4.5 to 2.6 million years ago, large volumes of basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

 were erupted around what is now Cowtrack Mountain (east and south of Mono Basin); eventually covering 300 square miles (777 km²) and reaching a maximum thickness of 600 feet (182.9 m). Later volcanism in the area occurred 3.8 million to 250,000 years ago. This activity was northwest of Mono Basin and included the formation of Aurora Crater, Beauty Peak, Cedar Hill (later an island in the highest stands of Mono Lake), and Mount Hicks.

Mono Lake is believed to have formed at least 760,000 years ago, dating back to the Long Valley eruption
Long Valley Caldera
Long Valley Caldera is a depression in eastern California that is adjacent to Mammoth Mountain. The valley is one of the largest calderas on earth, measuring about long and wide . The elevation of the floor of the caldera is in the east and in the west...

. Sediments located below the ash layer hint that Mono Lake could be a remnant of a larger and older lake that once covered a large part of Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

 and Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

, which would put it among the oldest lakes in North America. At its height during the most recent ice age
Quaternary glaciation
Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, the current ice age or simply the ice age, refers to the period of the last few million years in which permanent ice sheets were established in Antarctica and perhaps Greenland, and fluctuating ice sheets have occurred elsewhere...

, the lake may have been 900 feet (274.3 m) deep. Prominent old shore lines, called strandline
Strandline
The strandline, or high water mark, is the area at the top of a beach where debris is deposited. Where there are tides, this line is formed by the highest position of the tide, and moves up and down the beach on a fortnightly cycle...

s by geologists, can be seen above Lee Vining
Lee Vining, California
Lee Vining is a census-designated place in Mono County, California, United States. It is located south-southeast of Bridgeport, at an elevation of 6781 feet . Lee Vining is located on the southwest shore of Mono Lake. The population was 222 as of the 2010 census, down from 250 reported as of 2000...

 and along volcanic hills northeast of the current lake.

Currently, Mono Lake is in a geologically active area at the north end of the Mono–Inyo Craters volcanic chain and is close to Long Valley Caldera
Long Valley Caldera
Long Valley Caldera is a depression in eastern California that is adjacent to Mammoth Mountain. The valley is one of the largest calderas on earth, measuring about long and wide . The elevation of the floor of the caldera is in the east and in the west...

. Volcanic activity continues in the Mono Lake vicinity: the most recent eruption occurred 350 years ago, resulting in the formation of Paoha Island
Paoha Island
Paoha Island is a volcanic island in Mono Lake, an endorheic lake in the U.S. state of California. Formed by a series of eruptions in the 17th century, Paoha is composed of lakebed sediments deposited above volcanic domes. It is one of two major islands in the lake, the other being the smaller...

. Panum Crater
Panum Crater
Panum Crater is a volcanic cone that is part of the Mono-Inyo Craters, a chain of recent volcanic cones south of Mono Lake and east of the Sierra Nevada, in California, USA...

 (on the south shore of the lake) is an excellent example of a combined rhyolite
Rhyolite
This page is about a volcanic rock. For the ghost town see Rhyolite, Nevada, and for the satellite system, see Rhyolite/Aquacade.Rhyolite is an igneous, volcanic rock, of felsic composition . It may have any texture from glassy to aphanitic to porphyritic...

 dome
Lava dome
|250px|thumb|right|Image of the [[rhyolitic]] lava dome of [[Chaitén Volcano]] during its 2008–2009 eruption.In volcanology, a lava dome is a roughly circular mound-shaped protrusion resulting from the slow extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano...

 and cinder cone
Cinder cone
According to the , Cinder Cone is the proper name of 1 cinder cone in Canada and 7 cinder cones in the United States:In Canada: Cinder Cone In the United States:...

.

Limnology


The limnology
Limnology
Limnology , also called freshwater science, is the study of inland waters. It is often regarded as a division of ecology or environmental science. It covers the biological, chemical, physical, geological, and other attributes of all inland waters...

 of the lake shows it contains approximately 280 million tons of dissolved salts, with the salinity
Salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

 varying depending upon the amount of water in the lake at any given time. Before 1941, average salinity was approximately 50 grams per liter (g/l) (compared to a value of 31.5 g/l for the world's oceans). In January 1982, when the lake reached its lowest level of 6372 feet (1,942 m), the salinity had nearly doubled to 99 g/l. In 2002, it was measured at 78 g/l and is expected to stabilize at an average 69 g/l as the lake replenishes over the next 20 years.

An important, and unintentional, consequence of ending the water diversions was the onset of a period of "meromixis"
Meromictic
A meromictic lake has layers of water that do not intermix. In ordinary, "holomictic" lakes, at least once each year there is a physical mixing of the surface and the deep waters...

 in Mono Lake. In the time prior to this, Mono Lake was typically "monomictic"; which means that at least once each year the deeper waters and the shallower waters of the lake mixed thoroughly, thus bringing oxygen and other nutrients to the deep waters. In meromictic lakes, the deeper waters do not undergo this mixing; the deeper layers are more saline than the water near the surface, and are typically nearly devoid of oxygen. As a result, becoming meromictic greatly changes a lake's ecology.

Mono Lake has experienced meromictic periods in the past; this most recent episode of meromixis, brought on by the end of the water diversions, commenced in 1994 and had ended by 2004.

Fauna


The hypersalinity and high alkalinity (pH=10 or equivalent to 4 milligrams of NaOH per liter of water) of the lake means that no fish are native to the lake. An attempt by the California Department of Fish and Game
California Department of Fish and Game
The California Department of Fish and Game is a department within the government of California, falling under its parent California Natural Resources Agency. The Department of Fish and Game manages and protects the state's diverse fish, wildlife, plant resources, and native habitats...

 to stock the lake failed.

Aquatic life


The lake is famous for the Mono Lake brine shrimp, Artemia monica, a tiny species of brine shrimp
Brine shrimp
Artemia is a genus of aquatic crustaceans known as brine shrimp. Artemia, the only genus in the family Artemiidae, has changed little externally since the Triassic period...

, no bigger than a thumbnail, that are endemic. During the warmer summer months, an estimated 4-6 trillion brine shrimp inhabit the lake. Brine shrimp have no food value for humans, but are a staple for birds of the region. The brine shrimp feed on microscopic planktonic algae which reproduce rapidly during winter and early spring after winter runoff brings nutrients to the surface layer of water.

The whole food chain of the lake is based on the high population of single-celled algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 present in the warm shallow waters. By March the lake is "as green as pea soup" with photosynthesizing algae. Alkali flies, Ephydra
Ephydridae
Ephydridae is a family of insects in the order Diptera.Shore flies are tiny flies that can be found near seashores or at smaller inland waters, such as ponds...

 hians
live along the shores of the lake and walk underwater encased in small air bubbles for grazing and to lay eggs. These flies are an important source of food for migratory and nesting birds.

Birds


Mono Lake is a vital resting and eating stop for migratory shorebirds
Wader
Waders, called shorebirds in North America , are members of the order Charadriiformes, excluding the more marine web-footed seabird groups. The latter are the skuas , gulls , terns , skimmers , and auks...

 and has been recognized as a site of international importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network is a conservation strategy targeting shorebirds in the Americas launched in 1985. Its aim is to protect the nesting, breeding and staging habitats of migratory shorebirds...

.
Nearly 2,000,000 waterbirds, including 35 species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 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 American avocet
American Avocet
The American Avocet is a large wader in the avocet and stilt family, Recurvirostridae.This avocet has long, thin, gray legs, giving it its colloquial name, "blue shanks". The plumage is black and white on the back with white on the underbelly. The neck and head are cinnamon colored in the summer...

s, killdeer
Killdeer
The Killdeer is a medium-sized plover.Adults have a brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with two black bands. The rump is tawny orange. The face and cap are brown with a white forehead. They have an orange-red eyering...

 and sandpipers. Over 1.5 million eared grebes
Black-necked Grebe
The Black-necked Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis, known in North America as the Eared Grebe, is a member of the grebe family of water birds. It occurs on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.-Taxonomy:There are three subspecies:*P. n...

 and phalarope
Phalarope
A phalarope or wadepiper is any of three living species of slender-necked shorebirds in the genus Phalaropus of the bird family Scolopacidae. They are close relatives of the shanks and tattlers, the Actitis and Terek Sandpipers, and also of the turnstones and calidrids...

s use Mono Lake during their long migrations.

Late every summer tens of thousands of Wilson's phalarope
Wilson's Phalarope
The Wilson's Phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor, is a small wader. This bird, the largest of the phalaropes, breeds in the prairies of North America in western Canada and the western United States. It is migratory, wintering around the central Andes in South America. They are passage migrants through...

s and red-necked phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope
The Red-necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus, is a small wader. This phalarope breeds in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is migratory, and, unusually for a wader, winters at sea on tropical oceans....

s arrive from their nesting grounds, and feed until they continue their migration to South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 or the tropical oceans respectively.

In addition to migratory birds, a few species spend several months to nest at Mono Lake. Mono Lake is the second largest nesting population of California gull
California Gull
The California Gull Larus californicus is a medium-sized gull, smaller on average than the Herring Gull but larger on average than the Ring-billed Gull, though may overlap in size greatly with both....

s, Larus californicus, second only to the Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake, located in the northern part of the U.S. state of Utah, is the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere, the fourth-largest terminal lake in the world. In an average year the lake covers an area of around , but the lake's size fluctuates substantially due to its...

 in Utah. Since abandoning the landbridged Negit Island in the late 1970s, California gulls have moved to some nearby islets and have established new, if less protected, nesting sites. Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 and Point Reyes Bird Observatory have continued the study of nesting populations on Mono Lake that was begun over 20 years ago. Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover
The Snowy Plover is a small wader in the plover bird family. It breeds in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, the southern and western USA and the Caribbean...

s also arrive at Mono Lake each spring to nest along the remote eastern shores.

Arsenic-using bacteria


On December 2, 2010, NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 announced the discovery of an organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

 in Mono Lake, named GFAJ-1
GFAJ-1
GFAJ-1 is a strain of rod-shaped bacterium in the family Halomonadaceae. The extremophile was isolated from the hypersaline and alkaline Mono Lake in eastern California by a research team led by NASA astrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon...

, that utilizes arsenic in its cellular structure. This would constitute the first discovery of a life form capable of replacing one of the six essential elements (carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

, hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

, oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

, sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

 and phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

) in its biomolecules.


Native Americans


The early indigenous people
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 of Mono Lake were called the Kutzadika'a, who were the Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 band of Northern Paiutes. They spoke the Northern Paiute language
Northern Paiute language
Northern Paiute is a Western Numic language of the Uto-Aztecan family, which according to Marianne Mithun had around 500 fluent speakers in 1994. Ethnologue reported the number of speakers in 1999 as 1,631...

. The Kutzadika'a foraged alkali fly larvae, called kutsavi in their language. Mono Lake was also referred to as Teniega Bah. The origin of the name "Kutzadika'a" is uncertain but could be a Yokut
Yokutsan languages
Yokutsan is an endangered language family spoken in the interior of Northern and Central California in and around the San Joaquin Valley by the Yokut people. The speakers of Yokutsan languages were severely affected by disease, missionaries, and the Gold Rush...

 Native American term for "fly eater".

The term "Mono" came from "Monachi", a Yokut term for the tribes that lived on both the east and west side of the Sierra Nevada.

During early contact the first known Mono Lake Paiute chief was Captain John. He was also referred to by the Paiute names of Shibana or Poko Tucket. Captain John was the son of a Northern Paiute named 'older Captain John.'

The Mono tribe
Mono tribe
The Mono are a Native American people who traditionally live in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Eastern Sierra , the Mono Basin, and adjacent areas of the Great Basin.-Culture and geography:...

 has two bands: Eastern and Western. The Eastern Mono joined the Western Mono bands' villages annually at Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hetch Hetchy Valley is a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in California. It is currently completely flooded by O'Shaughnessy Dam, forming the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The Tuolumne River fills the reservoir. Upstream from the valley lies the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. The reservoir...

, Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in the western Sierra Nevada mountains of California, carved out by the Merced River. The valley is about long and up to a mile deep, surrounded by high granite summits such as Half Dome and El Capitan, and densely forested with pines...

, and along the Merced River
Merced River
The Merced River , in the central part of the U.S. state of California, is a -long tributary of the San Joaquin River flowing from the Sierra Nevada into the Central Valley. It is most well known for its swift and steep course through the southern part of Yosemite National Park, and the...

 to gather acorn
Acorn
The acorn, or oak nut, is the nut of the oaks and their close relatives . It usually contains a single seed , enclosed in a tough, leathery shell, and borne in a cup-shaped cupule. Acorns vary from 1–6 cm long and 0.8–4 cm broad...

s, different plant species, and to trade. The Western Mono traditionally lived in the south-central Sierra Nevada foothills, including Historical Yosemite Valley
History of the Yosemite area
For over 3,000 years Sierra Miwok, Mono, Paiute, and other Native American groups have lived in the central Sierra Nevada region of California. When European Americans first visited the area that would later become Yosemite National Park, a band of Miwok-speaking Native Americans called the...

.

Present day Mono Reservations are currently located in Big Pine
Big Pine, California
Big Pine is a census-designated place in Inyo County, California, United States. Big Pine is located south-southeast of Bishop, at an elevation of 3990 feet . The population was 1,756 at the 2010 census, up from 1,350 at the 2000 census...

, Bishop
Bishop, California
Bishop is a city in Inyo County, California, United States. Though Bishop is the only city and the largest populated place in Inyo County, the county seat is Independence. Bishop is located near the northern end of the Owens Valley, at an elevation of 4147 feet . The population was 3,879 at the...

, and several in Fresno County, California
Fresno County, California
Fresno County is a county located in the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California, south of Stockton and north of Bakersfield. As of the 2010 census, it is the tenth most populous county in California with a population of 930,450, and the sixth largest in size with an area of . The county...

.


Conservation efforts


In order to provide water needs for the growing City of Los Angeles
Greater Los Angeles Area
The Greater Los Angeles Area, or the Southland, is a term used for the Combined Statistical Area sprawled over five counties in the southern part of California, namely Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County and Ventura County...

, water was diverted from the Owens River
Owens River
The Owens River is a river in southeastern California in the United States, approximately long. It drains into and through the Owens Valley, an arid basin between the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada and the western faces of the Inyo and White Mountains. The river terminates at Owens Lake, but...

 into the Los Angeles Aqueduct
Los Angeles Aqueduct
The Los Angeles Aqueduct system comprising the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct, is a water conveyance system operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power...

 in 1913. In 1941 the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is the largest municipal utility in the United States, serving over four million residents. It was founded in 1902 to supply water and electricity to residents and businesses in Los Angeles and surrounding communities...

 extended the Los Angeles Aqueduct
Aqueduct
An aqueduct is a water supply or navigable channel constructed to convey water. In modern engineering, the term is used for any system of pipes, ditches, canals, tunnels, and other structures used for this purpose....

 system farther upriver into the Mono Basin
Mono Basin
The Mono Basin is an endorheic drainage basin located east of Yosemite National Park in California and Nevada. It is bordered to the west by the Sierra Nevada, to the east by the Cowtrack Mountains, to the north by the Bodie Hills, and to the south by the north ridge of the Long Valley...

. So much water was diverted that evaporation
Evaporation
Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs only on the surface of a liquid. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which, instead, occurs on the entire mass of the liquid....

 soon exceeded inflow and the surface level of Mono Lake fell rapidly. By 1982 the lake was reduced to 37688 acres (15,251.8 ha) having lost 31 percent of its 1941 surface area. As a result alkali
Alkali
In chemistry, an alkali is a basic, ionic salt of an alkali metal or alkaline earth metal element. Some authors also define an alkali as a base that dissolves in water. A solution of a soluble base has a pH greater than 7. The adjective alkaline is commonly used in English as a synonym for base,...

ne sands and once-submerged tufa
Tufa
Tufa is a variety of limestone, formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from ambient temperature water bodies. Geothermally heated hot-springs sometimes produce similar carbonate deposits known as travertine...

 towers became exposed and Negit Island became landbridged, exposing the nests of gull
Gull
Gulls are birds in the family Laridae. They are most closely related to the terns and only distantly related to auks, skimmers, and more distantly to the waders...

s to predators (chiefly coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s) and forcing the breeding colony to abandon the site.

In 1974, Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 graduate student David Gaines studied the Mono Lake ecosystem and was instrumental in alerting the public of the effects of the lower water level. The National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

 funded the first comprehensive ecological study of Mono Lake, conducted by Gaines and undergraduate students from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, and Earlham College
Earlham College
Earlham College is a liberal arts college in Richmond, Indiana. It was founded in 1847 by Quakers and has approximately 1,200 students.The president is John David Dawson...

. In June 1977 the UC Davis Institute of Ecology published their report, "An Ecological Study of Mono Lake, California," which alerted California to the ecological dangers posed by the redirection of water away from the lake for municipal uses.

Gaines formed the Mono Lake Committee
Mono Lake Committee
The Mono Lake Committee is an environmental organization based in Lee Vining, California in the United States. Its mission is to preserve Mono Lake, by reducing diversions of water from the Eastern Sierra watersheds by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power .The Committee was founded in...

 in 1978. He and Sally Judy, a UC Davis student, led the committee and pursued an informational tour of California. They joined with the Audubon Society to fight a now famous court battle, the National Audubon Society v. Superior Court
National Audubon Society v. Superior Court
The case of National Audubon Society v. Superior Court was a key case in California highlighting the conflict between the public trust doctrine and appropriative water rights...

, to protect Mono Lake through state public trust laws. While these efforts have resulted in positive change, the surface level is still below historic levels and exposed shorelines are a source of significant alkali
Alkali
In chemistry, an alkali is a basic, ionic salt of an alkali metal or alkaline earth metal element. Some authors also define an alkali as a base that dissolves in water. A solution of a soluble base has a pH greater than 7. The adjective alkaline is commonly used in English as a synonym for base,...

 dust during periods of high wind.
Owens Lake
Owens Lake
Owens Lake is a mostly dry lake in the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County, California. It is located about south of Lone Pine, California...

, the once navigable terminus of the Owens River
Owens River
The Owens River is a river in southeastern California in the United States, approximately long. It drains into and through the Owens Valley, an arid basin between the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada and the western faces of the Inyo and White Mountains. The river terminates at Owens Lake, but...

 which had sustained a healthy ecosystem, is now a dry lake bed during dry years due to water diversion beginning in the 1920s. Mono Lake was spared this fate when the California State Water Resources Control Board issued an order to protect Mono Lake and its tributary streams on September 28, 1994. Since that time, the lake level has steadily risen. In 1941 the surface level was at 6417 feet (1,956 m) above sea level and as of August 2006 it was at 6385 feet (1,946 m). As of May 2011, Mono Lake is at 6382.5 feet above sea level and is projected to rise 1.6 feet by September in response to the heavy snowpack in the mountains this year. The lake level of 6392 feet (1,948 m) above sea level is the goal, a goal made more difficult during years of drought in the American West.

In popular culture

  • Mark Twain
    Mark Twain
    Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

    's Roughing It
    Roughing It
    Roughing It is a book of semi-autobiographical travel literature written by American humorist Mark Twain. It was written during 1870–71 and published in 1872 as a prequel to his first book Innocents Abroad...

    , published in 1872, provides a humorous and informative early description of Mono Lake in its natural condition in the 1860s Twain found the lake to be a "lifeless, treeless, hideous desert... the loneliest place on earth."
  • The general appearance of the lake and surrounding mountains circa 1973 can also be seen in the Clint Eastwood
    Clint Eastwood
    Clinton "Clint" Eastwood, Jr. is an American film actor, director, producer, composer and politician. Eastwood first came to prominence as a supporting cast member in the TV series Rawhide...

     film High Plains Drifter
    High Plains Drifter
    High Plains Drifter is a 1973 American Western film, with a hint of the supernatural, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood and produced by Robert Daley for The Malpaso Company and Universal Pictures. Eastwood plays a mysterious gunfighter hired by the residents of a corrupt frontier mining town...

  • The Diver, a photo taken by Storm Thorgerson
    Storm Thorgerson
    Storm Thorgerson is an English graphic designer, known for his work for rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, 10cc, Dream Theater, The Mars Volta, Muse, The Cranberries, and Biffy Clyro.-Biography:...

     for Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

    's album Wish You Were Here, features what appears to be a man diving into a lake, creating no ripples. The photo was taken at Mono Lake, and the tufa towers are a prominent part of the landscape. The effect was actually created when the diver performed a handstand
    Handstand
    A handstand is the act of supporting the body in a stable, inverted vertical position by balancing on the hands. In a basic handstand the body is held straight with arms and legs fully extended, with hands spaced approximately shoulder-width apart...

     underwater until the ripples dissipated.

  • The band Cinderella
    Cinderella (band)
    Cinderella is an American heavy metal band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They emerged in the mid-1980s with a series of multi-platinum albums and hit singles whose music videos received heavy MTV rotation. They were famous for being a glam metal band, but then shifted over towards a more hard...

     filmed the video for their power ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)
    Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)
    "Don't Know What You Got " is a power ballad written and performed by the Glam metal band Cinderella, from their second album Long Cold Winter. It was their most successful single, peaking at number 12 on the charts in November 1988. It was released in August 1988.It is featured in the South Park...

    " at Mono Lake
  • Monolake
    Monolake
    Monolake is an electronic music act based in Berlin. Originally consisting of members Gerhard Behles and Robert Henke, Monolake is now perpetuated by Henke while Behles focuses on running music software company Ableton, which they founded in 1999 together with Bernd Roggendorf...

     is the stage name of a a Berlin minimal techno
    Minimal techno
    Minimal techno is a minimalist sub-genre of techno. It is characterized by a stripped-down aesthetic that exploits the use of repetition, and understated development. This style of dance music production generally adheres to the motto less is more; a principle that has been previously utilized, to...

     artist
  • The volcano scene from the award-winning 1953 film Fair Wind to Java was shot at Mono Lake. Today the remnants of the volcano host California gull researchers on their visits to the island.

See also


  • Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve
    Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve
    The Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve is located near Yosemite National Park within Mono County, in eastern California. It was established in 1981 by the California State Legislature, to preserve the natural limestone "tufa tower" formations at Mono Lake.-Access:...

  • Mono Basin National Scenic Area
    Mono Basin National Scenic Area
    The Mono Basin National Scenic Area is a protected area in Eastern California that surrounds Mono Lake and the northern half of the Mono Craters volcanic field. It is administered by the Inyo National Forest as a unit of the National Forest Scenic Area program, under the U.S...


External links