I spent some time in the Eastern Sierra earlier this week, working on a story about snow that’s not really California’s Islands related. On the way home, we stopped by Mono Lake, which I’d never visited before. What a strange place!
I don’t know anything about Mono that you can’t find out with a quick Google search. It’s a salty lake situated between the Sierra and the Great Basin. It’s got tufa towers, which are those mounds sticking up near the beach in the picture. They’re formed by fresh springs bubbling up through the saline lake.
And it’s got TRILLIONS of Mono Lake brine shrimp, which, in case the name doesn’t make it obvious, only live there in Mono Lake.
In the ’40s LA started diverting water from the lake which drastically brought down the water level and increased the salinity of the water. People got concerned about it in the ’70s and began working to protect the lake, bring the water level back up, and protect the brine shrimp and alkali flies, since the high salinity threatened them.
It’s striking to me that even though there were trillions of brine shrimp, they were candidates for being listed under the Endangered Species Act (as far as I understand, they were never listed). Plants and animals survive on such different scales. What’s necessary for leopards to survive (in terms of number of individuals and size of habitat) is so wildly different from what insects or crustaceans need.
Stu Weiss, the butterfly biologist mentioned this, too, on our trip to Coyote Ridge. The Bay checkerspots live on a ridge surrounded by development. They’re protected by the Endangered Species Act, but it’s not disastrous to step on a caterpillar (not that anyone’s stomping around trying to step on checkerspot larvae, but no one’s tiptoeing, either).
On a completely unrelated note, Andy, my boyfriend, did me the huge favor of pointing out that the 80′s glam metal band Cinderella filmed a music video at Mono Lake. It’s also got some scenes from Bodie, the ghost town where pikas live, which is nearby. Check out the hill behind the band in the ghost town scenes–that’s where the pikas are living in ore dumps left over from the gold rush (there’s a pretty good shot around 4:49).
For the record, I do not endorse listening to power ballads unless there’s a good environmental excuse.