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Queen's University biologists find new environmental threat in North American lakes
Date:11/27/2008

lem to the long-term effects of acid rain on forest soils, as well as to logging and forest re-growth, the researchers note that, despite signs of chemical recovery from recent reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions, lower calcium levels may delay the biological recovery of lakes from acidification. "This has important management implications," says team member Dr. Andrew Paterson of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and adjunct professor at Queen's University. "It was a combination of experimental work, paleoecological research and long-term monitoring that helped to identify this emerging threat," he adds.

The authors conclude that the phenomenon of calcium decline is causing widespread transformation of aquatic food webs in boreal lakes in North America, and in other acid-sensitive regions of the globe. While their work focuses on the water flea Daphnia, they note that all life in lakes requires calcium, and many creatures including crayfish, mollusks and fish have quite high calcium demands. They are all at risk, say the researchers, but we don't yet know if calcium levels have fallen to the point of damage.

"This is all very worrisome," concludes Dr. Smol, recipient of the 2004 NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal as Canada's top scientist and co-director of Queen's Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL). "The good news is that we have found the 'miner's canary' in the form of these water fleas that track the decline in calcium levels. The bad news is that many lakes have already passed these critical thresholds."


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Contact: Nancy Dorrance
nancy.dorrance@queensu.ca
613-533-2869
Queen's University
Source:Eurekalert  

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