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Breathing Life Back Into Brooktrout Lake

September 12, 2016

Exel Magazine Illustration Breathing Life Back into Brooktrout

Brooktrout lake was once teeming with the speckled fish after which it is named, but by the 1980s, it had become one of hundreds of lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks of upstate New York that were devoid of fish. The culprit: acid rain from the burning of fossil fuels.

The bodies of water in this region are among the most impacted by acid deposition in the United States.

But reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions over the past three decades, fostered by federal environmental regulations, have allowed the pH of the Adirondack lakes to stabilize over time — giving scientists a unique opportunity to attempt to reintroduce fish to the lake.

Two researchers from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University — Donald Charles and Frank Acker — were part of a nine-institution group that has spent two decades documenting changes in the lake and their effects on species such as bacteria and fish.

Their research, which was published in 2015 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, marks the most comprehensive long-term study of how acidification affects lake ecosystems to date.

The researchers documented the water quality and aquatic plant and animal life recovery throughout the 1990s and 2000s. They discovered that, as lakes recover, more species of phytoplankton and zooplankton were found, thus beginning to rebuild the food chain.

Read more in Exel magazine