3HistoryAccidentally created in 1905, the Salton Sea is now a stopover for millions of birds. Lower water levels, and rising salinity and toxicity, threaten all life in the lake.The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when spring flooding breached an intake canal in Arizona, releasing water from the Colorado River into the Salton Sink. The resulting lake covered 500 square miles. People stocked the lake with fish and pile worms and, once the water supply from the Colorado was cut off again, water levels were maintained by runoff. With no outflow, the Salton Sea has become progressively saltier and levels of toxic chemicals and pesticides have risen. Now, California is drawing water from the lake to supply water thirsty communities, especially San Diego. The Salton Sea is shrinking.
4HistoryIn spite of the lake’s problems, pile worms continue to do well, feeding off decaying organic material and algae. They, and the remaining fish, draw more than 400 species of birds every year. In 2005, National Geographic called it “one of the most important migratory bird habitats in the US, if not the world” (Bourne, Joel K. Salton Sea. February 2005).But the Salton Sea is dying. Shrinking water levels, high salinity, and high levels of toxins threaten the whole ecosystem. California is working toward a restoration plan, but will it be too little, too late?
6SAMPLING THE BOTTOM-DWELLING ANIMALS OF THE SALTON SEA Benthic (bottom-dwelling) invertebrate animals form a major part of the diets of fish and many types of birds at the Salton Sea, and can be extremely numerous within different habitats. In fact, on submerged rocks, several thousand invertebrates can be collected from an area the size of a slice of bread!
7Benthic invertebrate animals within three major habitats of the Salton Sea The offshore environment is sampled by boat using a Ponar grab.
8The rocky shore-line is an important habitat for many benthic animals. Barnacle shell beaches also harbor a great abundance of animals
9Animals of the offshore sediments. The pileworm Neanthes succinea, the most abundant animal in the Sea, and food for fish and birds.Streblospio benedicti. (small marine worm)S. benedicti (life size), 1/10 the size of the pileworm.
10The amphipod Gammarus mucronatus The amphipod is very abundant in rocky areas: 3,183 were found within a 10 x 10 cm area in July! Unlike its relatives the common "beach hoppers" or sand fleas, Gammarus spends its entire life underwater. It is also an important food for fish and shorebirds foraging at the Sea
11Balanus amphitriteBarnacle shells provide an important habitat for amphipods and Neanthes.
12Corophium louisianumThe amphipod Corophium louisianum lives in mud tubes attached to hard substrata, in empty barnacle shells, and in the silty mud
13The pileworm NeanthesMost spawning occurred in March, when one 10-minute tow collected 286 worms! These would have provided a tasty meal for fish foraging that night.
20Bitterns, Herons, and Egrets American Bittern, Least BitternGreat Blue Heron, Little Blue HeronGreat Egret, Snowy EgretTricolored HeronReddish Egret, Cattle Egret, Green HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron
21Ibises, Spoonbills and Storks White Ibis, White-faced IbisRoseate SpoonbillWood Stork
50FlycatchersOlive-sided Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Western Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Eastern Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cassin’s Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed flycatcher
51Larks and Swallows Horned Lark Purple Martin, Tree Swallow Violet-green SwallowNorthern Rough-winged SwallowBank SwallowCliff SwallowBarn Swallow
52Jays, Magpies, and CrowsScrub JayAmerican CrowCommon Raven
53Chickadees, Titmice and Verdins Mountain ChickadeeVerdins
54Nuthatches, Creepers and Wrens Red-breasted NuthatchWhite-breasted NuthatchBrown CreeperCactus, Rock, Canyon, Bewick’s, House, Winter, and Marsh Wren
55Kinglets, Bluebirds, and Thrushes Golden-crowned, and Ruby-crowned KingletBlue-gray, and Black-tailed GnatcatcherWestern, and Mountain BluebirdTownsend’s SolitaireSwainson’s ThrushHermit ThrushAmerican Robin, Varied Thrush
56Mockingbirds and Thrashers Northern MockingbirdSage, Brown, Bendire’s, Curve-billed, Crissal, and Le Conte’s Thrashers
57Wagtails, Pipits, Waxwings, and Phainopepla American PipitSprague’s PipitCedar WaxwingPhainopepla
58Shrikes, Starlings and Mynas Northern ShrikeLoggerhead ShrikeEuropean Starling
69Birds in troubleHuman activities created the Salton Sea as it currently exists, but human activities have destroyed natural habitats for migratory birds," says Pryde, who is an emeritus professor of geography at San Diego State University and chair of Audubon California's Salton Sea Task Force. "The sea is more crucial for these birds now than ever before--and more troubled."
70Mammals of the Salton Sea All mammals listed are considered resident species with the exception of the bats which migrate on a seasonal basis like many of the birds.
86Fish of the Salton Sea Fishes Very few fish can tolerate the high salinity of the Salton Sea. In 1950 attempts were made to introduce several marine fish. These attempts resulted in the largest inland fishery in California.
87Introduced Saltwater Fish Species Orange CorvinaSargoGulf CroakerLongjaw Mudsucker
88Species of fish in the Salton Sea That are found in saltwater and freshwater Tilapia
89Fish found in the Salton Sea that are endangered or threatened Desert Pupfish
90Other Fish of the Salton Sea Threadfin ShadSailfin MollyMosquitofishRed ShinerCalifornia KillifishLargemouth BassWhite Catfish, Channel CatfishCarp
92Habitato - open water - restricted to the open water of the Salton Sea and larger lakes in the Imperial Valley. b - beach and mudflat - basically the shore line of the Salton Sea, but expanded to include flooded fields and other such areas of shallow water and mud.
93Habitatsm - marshes - cattail marshes and other such areas found at various locations around the Salton Sea, along the rivers and canals, and at shallow lakes. f - farmland - agricultural land found extensively throughout the Imperial Valley south of the Salton Sea, including planted and unplanted fields alike.
94Habitats- shrubland - mesquite thickets and other brushy areas. Some shrubland contains scattered trees. - riparian vegetation - limited to areas of salt cedar and willows along waterways, and at some points along the shore of the Salton Sea. - aerial - use limited to those strong flying species most often seen in the air.
95Habitatsh - houses and towns - immediate area of ranch houses and the residential areas of such towns as Niland and Calipatria. It is in these areas that most of the larger trees can be found and where ornamental planting supports a variety of landbirds.