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Lake Tahoe Ecosystem

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During the last 140 years the ecosystem of the Lake Tahoe Basin has experienced multiple alterations. Just as many areas have been depleted or implemented signs of struggle after initial European settlement the Lake Tahoe basin’s ecosystem has been vastly affected by man. The precedent environment of Lake Tahoe’s basin may never be restored to its original condition; however efforts are being made toward its restoration. The annual rate of precipitation, and elevational range once generated a strong foundation for a wide diversity of vegetation within the basin (University of Davis, Centers for Water and Wildlife Resources, 1996).

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The basin was once home to a plethora of wetlands, subalpine to alpine meadows, shrublands, coniferous, and riparian forests. Primarily the Lake Tahoe basin also incorporated 12 various orders of insects, six species of zooplankton, 8 kinds of fish, and numerous invertebrate species which has since been altered primarily due to landscape disruptions as well as the introduction of non-native elements (University of Nevada Reno, n.


Although lodgepole pine, red and white fir, incense cedar, Jeffery pine, and a number of native plant species remain within the Lake Tahoe basin their density as well as health has been reduced unequivocally. From 1859 through the late 1880s, the Comstock era, construction demands called upon the Great Basin area for timber, and other resources. Saw mills where erected, cutting spread from North shore to South shore, and loggers hauled nearly 33 million board feet to the surrounding areas. In 1883 Lord stated that the mines of the Comstock Lode are literally the tombs of the Sierra Nevada Forests (U.

C. Davis, 1996). The fierce deforestation rate of this time has suggested that some mammalian as well as multiple fowl species dependant on the closed forest environments became locally extinct. Underwater saw a transformation during the late 1800s as well with nearly 25 commercial fishing operators existing during the 1870s on Lake Tahoe alone. With fish imports going as far as Chicago and New York City the word of Lake Tahoe’s 30 pound speckled trout had traveled (University of Davis Centers for Water and Wildlife Resources, 1996).

During this time the indigenous Lahontan cutthroat trout was completely extirpated, and today nearly all fish species within the lake have been introduced. The introduction of non- native species within the Lake Tahoe Basin include; crawfish, mysid shrimp, multiple types of warm-water fish, aquatic macrophytes, and Asian clams. The intrusion of these species whether brought by various state departments, or accidentally has helped to rapidly decline the number of native species as well as threatens off the shore areas essential for the recovery of some native species.

Around the mid 1800s various naturally fishless lakes of the Sierra’s close to Lake Tahoe began to be used as recreational fisheries by the settlers because of the scarce native fish population as well as over fishing. After the Euro-American settlers attempt to replenish Lake Tahoe the state of California’s Fish and Game Department took over the project of re-stocking the lake through horseback as well as air dropping fish into surrounding lakes. (The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site, n. d. ).

The over stocking of many non-native trout species within these naturally fishless lakes has aided as well as caused multiple problems among the native species. The introduction of multiple non native species into Lake Tahoe has turned into a potentially dangerous outcome for the lake and its ecosystem, and sparked a spiral effect of negativity. Initially established in the lake as a food source for warm water fish the crawfish as well as mysid shrimp have polluted the naturally clear waters of Tahoe, and restricted the zooplankton community.

The crawfish introduced into the lake may be thriving in the area for numerous reasons, and some scientists suggest that the current rise in other food sources for the non-native fish species has sparked the incline in their population (www. tahoescience. org). Crawfish naturally excrete phosphorous as well as nitrogen, and have enabled the lake to have a faster turnover rate within its waters thanks to their large numbers (University of Davis Centers for Water and Wildlife Resources, 1996).

Warm-water fish not native to the Lake Tahoe area have also begun to thrive within the near shore environments because of the increase in water temperature, and continue to intrude on native fish. The rise in water temperatures is most likely from an increase in algae production within the near shore areas caused by the production of nutrients by the Asian clams, which in turn then feeds the growing crawfish population. Since the settlement of the Lake Tahoe Basin people have deforested mountain sides, and killed almost all natural life within the waters.

Just as the Lake Tahoe area has felt the aftermath of its founder’s rate of consumption, and greed it too can begin to be mended. Multiple departments have launched fish hatcheries within the area to restock the native fish species, and many outside lakes have been cleared of fish. With many of the surrounding areas coined nation forest land the timber may also be able to regenerate themselves as well. As time continues we learn more each day of the environmental damage our ancestors have caused, and can try to revert it.

Cite this Lake Tahoe Ecosystem

Lake Tahoe Ecosystem. (2016, Nov 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/lake-tahoe-ecosystem/

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