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Mono Basin Landscape - California
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© Christine Till - CT-Graphics
For the last three to four million years the whole Mono Basin has been tilting westward and sinking while the Sierra has been rising. This ongoing process has created the majestic contrast of a desert lake bordered by high mountain peaks.
Located in California's spectacular Eastern Sierra, Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake, supports a unique and productive ecosystem. The lake has no fish; instead it is home to trillions of brine shrimp and alkali flies (the name Mono actually means "flies" in the native Yokut language). Along the lakeshore, scenic limestone formations known as tufa towers rise from the water's surface. This oasis in the dry Great Basin is a vital habitat for millions of migratory and nesting birds that feed on the shrimp.
From 1941 until 1990, the city of Los Angeles diverted excessive amounts of water from Mono Lake's tributary streams 350 miles south to meet the growing water demands of Los Angeles. Deprived of its freshwater sources, Mono Lake, the largest natural lake completely within the state of California, dropped 45 vertical feet, lost half its volume, and doubled in salinity. Unable to adapt to these changing conditions within such a short period of time, the ecosystem began to collapse. If something was not done, Mono Lake was certain to become a lifeless chemical sump.
For 30 years people of the Mono Lake area have been working to protect Mono Lake from destruction, to heal the damage done in the Mono Basin, and to educate the public about the natural environment and wise water use. In 1994, after over a decade of litigation, the State of California ordered the city of Los Angeles to allow Mono Lake to rise to a healthy level. It is now slowly rising toward that goal ... foot by foot.
April 3rd, 2011
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