Climate: Lake Tahoe has a generally dry and temperate climate. Most of its precipitation occurs in the winter in the form of snow, and the summer is dry with very little humidity. The main abiotic factor that influences lake Tahoe’s climate is the mountain ranges. Tahoe is located between the Sierra Nevada and Carson mountain ranges. The Sierra Nevadas block the prevailing winds and moist air from the Pacific Ocean creating a rain shadow effect for lake Tahoe. The reason that Tahoe gets so much snow in the winter is that storms from the Pacific Ocean become more intense as they are forced over the Sierra Nevada mountains. This is a process known as an orographic lift. Lake Tahoe also has a salinity of fewer than 0.5 ppt and is classified as a freshwater lake. Part of the reason for this is that in the spring the large amounts of snow that fell melt and the freshwater dilutes the water.
Most common plant species and their adaptations:
Jeffrey Pine: One of the most common trees in Lake Tahoe. It is a North American pine tree that primarily is found in California. Many trees like the Jeffrey pine are at the least moderately fire and drought resistant. Lake Tahoe has a high fire risk and dry summers, so without these adaptations, plants could risk dying.
Canyon live oak: A member of the climax community, which is the final stage of succession. These oaks remain relatively unchanged until a natural disaster occurs like a fire or human interference occurs.
Mule ears: Mule Ears are native perennial herbs that grow near the shore and are slow-growing. They are a pioneer species because they have the ability to grow in areas that were recently burned in fires.
Eurasian watermilfoil: A species of aquatic plant native to Eurasia, but was introduced to North America. It grows in still or slow-moving water but is considered to be a highly invasive species.
Algae: Algea's pigment allows it to do photosynthesis. Also, some have gas-filled floats that allow them to float and maximize their exposure to sunlight.
Most common animals and their adaptations:
The American beaver: The largest rodent in the United States, has dark brown waterproof fur, and webbed feet. They have to store fat in the fall and winter to survive lake Tahoe’s intense winters, and their webbed feet allow them to swim fast through the water.
Snapping Turtle: Usually tan to black in color and have a spiky upper shell, a small cross-shaped lower shell, a long tail, sharp claws, and a large head with hooked jaws. Snapping turtles have murky-colored shells to blend in with the murky water in the lake. They are tertiary consumers and sit still underwater, wriggling their tongues to look like worms in order to attract the fish. Once a fish is in striking distance the snapping turtle rapidly bites down with over 200 newtons of force.
Smallmouth bass: Adult smallmouth bass can grow up to 26 inches long. Their elongated body is pale brown or olive green, while their belly is yellow-white in color. Rainbow Trout and Smallmouth Bass have the highest population of all the fish in the aquatic community and are secondary consumers. They feast on Kankokee salmon and Mysis shrimp. However, rainbow trout and smallmouth bass live in a very competitive niche because of the large number of secondary consumers in Lake Tahoe.
Mysis shrimp: small, shrimp-like crustaceans. Females have a brood pouch or "marsupium" to raise their larvae. Mysis shrimp are very important zooplankton because many species rely on them for food.
Food Web at Lake Tahoe:
Decomposers: Bacteria, flatworms, fungi, and other microorganisms are the most common decomposers in Lake Tahoe. However, some flatworms are parasitic so they are mostly responsible for sickness or disease. The majority of the flatworms do help the environment by being decomposers.
Modern and Non-Native Species in Lake Tahoe:
Quagga and zebra mussels: The quagga and zebra mussels reproduce and colonize quickly, so they are a major disruption to the food chain.
Crayfish and Mysid shrimp: these species were introduced intentionally to provide additional food for the game fish in the pond.
Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed: They were initially established in the Tahoe Keys lagoon, but have continued to spread to other locations around the lake. The dense surface mats can interfere with water-based recreational activities and prevent plants from the sunlight to photosynthesize.
New England Mud Snail: There is concern that the mud snails will impact the food chain of native trout and because of their large numbers they disrupt ecosystems that they infest. The mud snails spread easily by attaching themselves to aquatic plants, fishing gear, and boats.