It’s a real bummer to hear that 150 years of industrialisation wrecked the Earth so bad that it will take thousands to recover. It’s a much bigger bummer to see the situation in real life. That’s exactly what’s happening in a large number of Canada’s lakes, which are turning into jelly thanks to acid rain.
A new study from Cambridge University scientists shows how acid rain is leading to exploding populations of a particular type of gelatinous plankton that threatens to clog up the country’s drinking water filtration systems. Basically, the acid rain zapped the calcium deposits in the soil around a large number of Canada’s lakes. Falling calcium levels, in turn, led to the swift decline of certain calcium-rich plankton like Daphnia water fleas, and that meant that their gelatinous, less calcium-dependent competitors in the Holopedium genus (see below) can thrived. Now, many of Canada’s lakes look like bowls full of jelly (see above).
What’s the problem with exploding populations of Canadian, jelly-clad plankton? Well, this just isn’t what nature intended.
“It may take thousands of years to return to historic lake water calcium concentrations solely from natural weathering of surrounding watersheds,” said Dr Andrew Tanentzap from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences who co-authored the study. “In the meanwhile, while we’ve stopped acid rain and improved the pH of many of these lakes, we cannot claim complete recovery from acidification. Instead, we many have pushed these lakes into an entirely new ecological state.”
This “new ecological state” situation is especially problematic when you consider the fact that some 20 per cent of Canada’s drinking water comes from these lakes. So even though you don’t hear about acid rain on the news as much as you used to, the effects are everlasting. And the United States isn’t doing much better either. [Cambridge via CityLab]
Pictures: Ron Ingram, Ontario Ministry of the Environment / Michael Arts, Canada Centre for Inland Waters