Economic Aspects

The salts precipitated from saline waters are a rich source of chemicals used in a variety of industrial processes and are mined from salt lakes. In coastal areas with high evaporation rates, a series of salterns allow progressive concentration of solutes and the production of useful salts. In a few saline lakes with strong chemical stratification, transparent surface waters and a turbid layer within the chemocline, high temperatures have been recorded in the turbid layer. These features have guided the construction of artificial, so-called solar ponds, with similar characteristics, for power production and heating purposes.

A common feature of tropical African soda lakes is high concentrations of nearly unialgal populations of the cyanobacteria, Arthrospira fusiformis, which support huge numbers of lesser flamingos and are used as a protein-rich food by people in Chad. These observations, laboratory studies, and development of mass culture methods have led to Arthrospira, often marketed as Spirulina, becoming a widely used food supplement. Other species of algae found in saline waters are commercially exploited because of their high glycerol or ^-carotene content (e.g., Dunaliella). Additional applications include the production of salt-resistant enzymes and the use of organic osmolytes to protect enzymes.

Artemia are an important food for aquaculture of some fish and other organisms. Typically, cysts are harvested from lakeshores and maintained dry until needed, when they are readily hatched by submerging in saline water. Occasionally, such as at Mono Lake, adult Artemia are collected, frozen, and shipped to aquaculture facilities.

The impressive numbers of birds that frequent saline waters and the striking scenery has led to tourism as an increasingly important aspect of their economic value. World famous examples include Lake Nakuru, with it shoreline fringed by pink flamingos, Mono Lake with its peculiar tufa towers and thousands of waterfowl, and the Dead Sea with its historical significance and highly buoyant water. Some less-saline lakes, such as Pyramid Lakes, harbor fish (e.g., Lahonton cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi) that support recreational fishery.

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