Lake Mead National Recreation Area

About the Park

At Lake Mead National Recreation Area, increasing temperatures, and changing precipitation patterns may alter park ecosystems, changing vegetation communities, habitats available for species, and the experience of park visitors. Climate models for the Mojave Desert predict less winter rains and snowpack, which leads to less water in the lake. Lower water levels on the lake will lead to issues with navigation and the location of launch ramps for boats. Models also predict more potential for flash floods and monsoonal type storms in the summer. Summer storms increase lightning strike capabilities for higher fire potential. Higher fire potential effects both air quality and also the potential to spread invasive (non-native) annual grasses. We may also see shifts in the range northward of some Sonoran desert plant and animal species. 

A series of complex and interacting factors make absolute predictions of how species move, where they will go and which species are likely to be successful in the future difficult, however, the physical properties of ecosystems, such as adiabatic rates and geographic barriers, will not change but may exaggerate effects of climate change.  While the effects of climate change may further the invasion by known weeds, locations with a close proximity to development are likely be invaded by new and novel weeds.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, as a member of the Pacific West Region, is involved in the first regional effort in the National Park Service to become carbon neutral. The Region has developed a vision of having its park operations be carbon neutral and of having all of its parks be a member of the Climate Friendly Parks Program.

The Lake Mead Climate Friendly Parks Action Plan outlines steps the Park can undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate its impact on climate change. The plan presents the Park’s emissions reduction goals and associated reduction actions to achieve the Park’s goals. The action plan contains strategies and items that were developed by working groups at the Mojave Desert and Mediterranean Coast Climate Friendly Parks Workshop. 

Emissions Profile

Greenhouse gas emissions result from the combustion of fossil fuels for transportation and energy (e.g., boilers, electricity generation), the decomposition of waste and other organic matter, and the volatilization or release of gases from various other sources (e.g., fertilizers and refrigerants).

In 2008, greenhouse gas emissions within Lake Mead National Recreation Area totaled 73,637 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). This includes emissions from park and concessioner operations and visitor activities, including vehicle use within the Park. For perspective, a typical single family home in the U.S. produces approximately 12 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (U.S. EPA, Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculators – Calculations and References, Retrieved; Website: http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html).  Thus, the combined emissions from park and concessioner operations and visitor activities within the Park are roughly equivalent to the emissions from the energy use of 5,685 households each year.

The largest emission sector in 2008 was transportation totaling 52,751 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The majority of the emissions result from visitor miles traveled within park boundaries.  The graph below, taken from our Action Plan, shows our baseline emissions in 2008 broken down into sectors.

Graph

Goals

Lake Mead National Recreation Area has committed to:

  • Reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions from park operations by 20% below 2008 levels by the year 2016.
  • Reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions from the park (in total) by 10% below 2008 levels by the year 2016.

To read more about what we are doing at Lake Mead National Recreation Area about climate change, check out our Action Plan!