Algae has never in the past been a problem for Lake Tahoe, but it seems to be becoming a problem as you see the algae levels spike in the lake. Lately, there has been a greenish red sludge appearing on the beach around the lake. This sludge is algae! Keep reading to see how much the algae has increased over the years and what is likely to happen in the future or click here to see the original article.
Algae in Lake Tahoe
The algae levels in the lake have increased 300% in the past year alone is what research done by the environmental research center at the University of California, Davis. TERC has been monitoring Lake Tahoe since 1968, and its annual State of the Lake Report offers a snapshot of the lake’s environmental health. Its analysis is invaluable for Tahoe’s decision-makers, who are steering the future of the region at a time when the lake’s clarity has stopped improving. (Source)
Is Climate Change the Reason for the Algae Spike?
Lake Tahoe has been battling a variety of environmental issues and the problem always seems to have to do with climate change. The area around the lake is becoming increasingly warmer and drier with added extreme weather patterns. The monthly average air temperatures for June and July in 2021 were the warmest recorded since 2010 — with an increase in nighttime temperatures driving much of that rise. (Source)
Microscopic Changes have Big Impacts
Over the last 50 years, algal growth has increased by over 600%. (Source) Algae Blooms occur in places that are frequently visited so there are many appearing near the shoreline of the lake. The environmental research center at the University of California, Davis also found that in lake Tahoe there is an abrupt change to the phytoplankton community due to the collapse of zooplankton and Mysis shrimp. This is very worrisome because zooplankton are the main contributors to keeping the water of lake Tahoe blue.
The Impact of Smoke on the Lake
Lake Tahoe’s phytoplankton, which typically live deep in the lake’s waters, need sunlight to photosynthesize. Last summer, wildfire smoke blocked out the sun for long stretches of time, and phytoplankton moved closer toward the surface of the water during the summer, according to the report. (Source)
Scientists are continuing to study the impacts of wildfire smoke on phytoplankton and Lake Tahoe’s clarity. An autonomous underwater glider — it’s a yellow tube that resembles an airplane with two wings jutting off each side — measures electrical conductivity, temperature, depth, and other indicators that researchers use to study the impacts of wildfire smoke. Data from the glider is still being analyzed, but as the report states, preliminary results indicate the impact of wildfire smoke is much more complex than originally thought. (Source)
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Source: Brown, Julie. “Unprecedented Algae Blooms, Warm Waters Threaten Lake Tahoe’s Blue.” SFGATE, SFGATE, 3 Aug. 2022, https://www.sfgate.com/renotahoe/article/algae-blooms-threaten-lake-tahoe-17345685.php.