Salton Sea’s Wildlife Tipping Point May Be Unfolding
The Salton Sea’s Wildlife Tipping Point May Be Unfolding California’s largest lake is in serious trouble. California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, is evaporating quickly. This may now have pushed it to a tipping point for fish and hundreds of bird species that live there.
The Desert Sun reported this week that Salton Sea Refuge managers have in the past few months seen indications of a lack of juvenile fish and a sudden decline of some bird species around the 100-year-old man-made lake, both signs of ecological demise. Refuge managers have even found dead birds around the shores that lab analysis showed starved to death. “Maybe we’re at the point where salinity is limiting fish reproduction,” …
Located about 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the Salton Sea is an ancestral lake basin with no recent natural water sources that was accidentally flooded in the early 1900s. As the 20th century unfolded it became a prime resting place for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway that extends from Alaska to Patagonia, and a major wildlife refuge since more than 90 percent of California wetlands have been drained for human development. Now more than 400 bird species use the Salton Sea to rest, breed, or forage.
But the Salton Sea has been receding fast since the largest agricultural-to-urban water transfer in the nation went into effect more than a decade ago. Rich in salt from native sources and agricultural runoff, the lake’s salinity has recently ballooned due to evaporation and decreasing water inflows to the point that only tilapia fish has been able to endure.
Experts have long said that if left unattended, the lake will become too salty even for tilapia to survive, which means birds would lose a major food source. “We are at 57 to 58 parts [of salt] per thousand right now,” Bruce Wilcox, assistant secretary for Salton Sea policy, told ThinkProgress earlier this year. “Once we get to sixty parts or thereabout, we think [the tilapia] reproduction will stop.”….More Here