Click the link to read the article on The Salt Lake Tribune website (Leia Larsen). Here’s an excerpt:
Scientists note changes to the food web they’ve never seen before, which could lead to endangered species listings and other disasters at Utah’s famous natural wonder
The lake is known for thick, black clusters of brine flies by the billions, which pupate in its salty water then gather in dense mats to reproduce on shore. The insectile masses occasionally gross out beachgoers, but the bugs are harmless to humans. Crucially, they provide a nutrient-rich feast for millions of migrating birds. This year, however, the fly swarms are gone. And something’s off about the few bugs that remain. Scientists say it’s a sign the lake’s ecological demise is here…
“We don’t have clouds of flies around our ankles anymore,” biology professor Bonnie Baxter, who helms Westminster College’s Great Salt Lake Institute, told a group of researchers and lake-based industry experts late last month. “The flies don’t look right. They’re small. They’re behaving funny.”
Brine flies and brine shrimp are saline lakes’ most unique and charismatic endemic critters. They draw more than 10 million migrating shorebirds and waterfowl to the Great Salt Lake every year, from phalaropes to ducks to gulls to avocets. Now, the fly food web is all but gone, and things aren’t looking good for the shrimp, either.