Salt lakes can be found all over the world and are important to their local communities for both environmental and economic reasons.
These lakes provide habitats for animals and protect humans from dust storms as long as they’re full. Otherwise, salt from dry lake beds kicks up into the air and can cause a variety of respiratory diseases.
Famous salt lakes like the Great Salt Lake in Utah and the Dead Sea in Jordan and Israel are even considered substantial tourist attractions, and also provide minerals for cosmetic industries.
Despite the important roles that salt lakes play, recent research has found that they are currently shrinking at drastic rates. A new study revealed that the Great Salt Lake in Utah has lost almost fifty percent of its area.
The Great Salt Lake is worth $1.32 billion a year, which puts more pressure on researchers to understand exactly what is happening to these lakes.
The new study, conducted by several researchers from Utah and Montana, examined how the Great Salt Lake and other saline lakes are impacted by climate change and an increasing demand for water usage.
The results were published in the journal Nature Geoscience and show that over the past 160 years, water development and agriculture has caused the Great Salt Lake to gradually lose 50 percent of its area and drop eleven feet.
This decline has created more dust storms and degraded natural habitats for the populations of migrating birds that feed and nest in the area.
“Although the lake has risen and fallen with droughts and floods in recent decades, the persistence of water diversions has decreased the lake’s level about 11 feet and exposed a lot of lake bed. The state’s plans to continue developing water in the basin will only worsen the problem,” said Wayne Wurtsbaugh, the study’s lead author.
The researchers note that significant conservation efforts and water reductions will be necessary to restore saline lakes across the globe.
By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer