To breed or not to breed: the question for flamingo

If one will think about the flagship species for salt lakes he or she most probably will mention Flamingo (as an aquatic ecologist I would argue that Artemia is more suitable to be a salt lake flagship but flamingo is definitely will attract more attention). Flocks of pink flamingo filtering the salt waters are among “the beautiful world looks like this” cliché.

We know that flamingo like salt waters and we now that they filter the plankton. We know that there are six species of Flamingo inhabiting Africa, Eurasia and South America. We are amazed with hot spots of Flamingo density such as Lake Nakuru in Africa. But it is also well known that salt lakes are lakes which are threatened by climate change. Salt lakes are very often located in the arid climate. The water level in salt lakes depends on the balance of precipitation and evaporation which lead to fluctuations of water level within relatively short time. The fluctuation of water level affects the salt lake not only by changing the area or structure of habitats but it also changes the salinity which impacts the food web. What will be the effect of changing water level and plankton community on the success of flamingo in a given lake? Should we expect that they stop breeding in lake that become less saline? There is nice paper in Hydrobiologia which address these questions.

Laguna Mar Chiquita

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Salt lake research: how to find the salt lake using the fossil footprints

I was always amazed by fossils. The fact that somebody left the footprint several millions years ago and we discovered it nowadays is astonishing. Usually popular movies present the discovery of fossils as something trivial: “Look, there are several bones which are easily assembled into the beautiful dinosaur.” I guess that the procedure is not as simple.

In this blog I am focused on salt lakes. About a month ago I found nice paper co-authored by Ricardo Melchor and his Argentinean colleagues. The paper is both has relevance to salt lakes and perfectly demonstrates how scientists attempt to decode ancient footprints.

The paper is about flamingo footprints which were imprinted into the Argentinean clay 20-30 million years ago. Those who ever observed the flock of flamingo which feed on the shore of a lake can imagine how difficult will be to find footprints after several million years (one year ago I visited Argentina and cannot imagine how they can remain for one month).

This photo of the flamingo head I’ve made one year ago in Argentina at the shore of the Laguna Mar Chiquita. I hope that 30 million years will pass and there will be somebody on the planet Earth to find out and decode our footprints. Continue reading

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Salt lake research weekly: Biofuel for Iran

The paper I selected is not a breakthrough or provocative hypothesis. In spite of relatively high impact factor of journal I should say that the paper is rather basic. One might expect from the title (Algae as a sustainable energy source for biofuel production in Iran: A case study) some estimates of production potential based on calculations, data on algae maximal yields, coefficients of the conversion of biomass to biofuel and other quantitative data. Not at all!

Biofuel production in Iran

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Salt lake research weekly: Picoplankton

My weekly updates were terminated for one week and it was enough to become overloaded with interesting papers dealing with salt lakes. I think that to post several posts each focused on one paper is better strategy than to cover several different research in one post.

Lothar Krienitz from Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries with colleagues from Germany, Kenya and China studied the occurrence of Picocystis salinarum in saline inland waters of East Africa.

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Salt Lake Research weekly: meromixis stability

I am really surprised that practically every week new papers on meromictic lakes are published. Meromictic lakes (lakes in which the water column is not completely mixed for the period longer than one year) are not so rare. Moreover it is speculated that many inland lakes might become meromictic due to climate change or human interventions to water balance. I am not sure that both mentioned factors will inevitably switch a lake to meromixis. Most probably we should emphasis that any relatively deep salt lake under certain conditions might become meromictic and we need general understanding of these conditions.

I should say that previous year we applied with our German colleagues  with project proposal to study on several different lakes factors which promote switching to or stability of the meromixis. The project was not supported but the idea is still valid. Paper I selected perfectly demonstrates that it is not easy task to understand what factors support meromixis in a given lake.

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Salt lake research weekly: Birds and Minerals

Papers that I selected this week will demonstrate that salt lake research is not always about aquatic ecology. Lake is a habitat for many species and one of favorite study sites for ornithologists. Lake also can be considered as a geochemical factory. It is not surprising that geologists and chemists likes to study saline lakes.

1. Small and nice Snowy Plovers are nesting on shorelines of saline lakes within the Southern High Plains of Texas. If one checks the Google Earth he/she easily finds that this area is intensively used for agriculture. Resulted reduced artesian spring flow makes saline lakes unsuitable for nesting and migrating shorebirds. Sarah Saalfeld with colleagues monitored 215 nests from three saline lakes to evaluate factors influencing nest success of Charadrius nivosusPredation and weather were the leading causes of nest failures. Nest success was negatively influenced by number of plants near the nest and positively influenced by percent surface water availability. When scientists compared results of nests monitoring in 2008-2009 and 1998-1999 they find that mean nest success has declined by 31%. The tendency is obvious – increased predation rates, decreased hydrological integrity, and habitat alterations lead to the decline of the Snowy Plovers in the region.

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Salt lake research weekly: January 28-February 10

As I did not post previous week now we have bunch of interesting papers with various salt lakes studied. The range of lakes I mention below – from lake in Kenya with thousands of birds and wildlife around to salt lake/lagoon in Italy located in the city center and desert lake in Australia.

Papers we selected nicely demonstrate specific properties of salt lakes which make them interesting to study.

1. The level and salinity of many shallow lakes located in arid climate fluctuate which alters the species composition. It opens opportunity to paleolimnological research of sediment cores from saline lakes which links lake level, salinity, species composition with regional climate over the long period of time.

There are two perfect papers on this topic. One is on community turnover of water fleas (Daphnia) in response to environmental change in a fluctuating tropical lake Naivasha (Kenya). During the past 1800 years the habitat fluctuated between a small saline pond and a large freshwater lake.

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