Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2003NV39B

A Study of Ancient Trees Rooted 120 Feet Below the Surface Level of Fallen Leaf Lake

Institute: Nevada
Year Established: 2003 Start Date: 2003-03-01 End Date: 2004-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $14,369 Total Non-Federal Funds: $33,118

Principal Investigators: John Kleppe

Abstract: The author of the proposal, Professor Kleppe, has discovered large trees rooted at a depth of 120 feet below the existing surface level of Fallen Leaf Lake. Fallen Leaf Lake is one of the major watershed areas for Lake Tahoe. Some of these trees measure over 80 feet tall with a circumference of 15 feet, which is an indication that they were over two hundred years in age when they died. Carbon dating has shown that the trees died simultaneously in 1215 A.D. The significance of this discovery is the fact that for these trees to be rooted 120 feet below the surface of the lake, the lake must have been down at least 120 feet for over two hundred years. This would indicate that a "mega drought" had occurred. It is critical that these trees be studied and that tree ring data be gathered to determine whether or not there were wet or relief periods during these drought periods. It may be possible to learn more about the cyclic nature of these "mega droughts". If another such drought were to occur in modern times, it would devastate the affected regions.