Human activity in the Lake Tahoe Basin has increased substantially in the past four decades, causing significant impacts on the quality and clarity of the lake's famous deep, clear water. Protection of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding environment has become an important activity in recent years. A variety of agencies, including the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe Research Group of the University of California at Davis, Desert Research Institute of the University and Community College System of Nevada, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and a host of State (both Nevada and California) and local agencies have been monitoring and conducting research in the Basin in order to understand how the lake functions and to what extent humans have affected its landscape and ecosystem processes. In spite of all of these activities, there remains a lack of comprehensive land use change data and analysis for the Basin.
A project is underway that unites the land cover mapping expertise of the USGS National Mapping Discipline with the hydrologic expertise of the Water Resources Discipline to assess the impacts of urban growth and land use change in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Three activities are planned over the next 3 years: (1) mapping the current and historic state of the land surface, (2) conducting analysis to document patterns, rates, and trends in urbanization, land use change, and ecosystem health, and (3) assessing the causes and consequences of land use change with regard to water quality and ecosystem health. We hypothesize that changes in the extent of urban growth and the corresponding increases in impervious surfaces and decreases in natural vegetation have resulted in severe impacts on ecosystem health and integrity, riparian zones and water quality over time. We are acting on multiple fronts to test this hypothesis through the quantification of landscape disturbances and impacts.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Land use change and effects on water quality and ecosystem health in the Lake Tahoe basin, Nevada and California