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Acid Rain Turns Canadian Lakes Into Goopy Mess

20 Nov 2014, 4:04 pm

Ron Ingram_Ontario

Photo credit: Ron Ingram | Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

There’s nothing like diving into a cool, crystal-clear mountain lake in the summertime. But, taking a swan-dive into certain lakes in Canada may leave you more repulsed, than refreshed.

“New research on a number of Canadian lakes show that historical acid deposits as a result of industry have greatly reduced calcium levels in the water – dramatically impacting populations of calcium-rich plankton such as Daphnia water fleas that dominate these ecosystems,” reports

The lack of calcium, has created an ecosystem that isn’t conducive for Daphnia. Which is where a tiny gelatinous plankton — called Holopedium — comes into the picture. The change in the chemistry of these lakes has allowed for an explosion of Holopedium. And while these slimy critters may make for a gross swim, their presence also has a potentially nefarious side.

“..the increasing ‘jellification’ of Canada’s lakes will prevent vital nutrients being passed up the food chain to fish stocks, as well as clogging filtration systems that help the lakes contribute drinking water to many residents in these areas'” the article continues.

Ron Ingram_Ontario2

Photo credit: Ron Ingram | Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

The continued jellification of the lakes in eastern Canada could have a profound impact on drinking water.

CITYLAB, a digital sub publication of The Atlantic, reports more than 20 percent of Ontario’s water comes from low-calcium sources. That’s according to Andrew Tanentzap, a researcher from the University of Cambridge and a co-author of the paper that reported the findings.

Major shifts in the pH of the lakes are a result of acid rain. The acid rain was caused by massive smelting — extracting metal from ore — plants in the region. Acid rain depleted calcium in the soil of runoff basins in the area; essentially cutting the lakes off from their source of calcium and causing massive changes in the ecosystem.

According to the research, it could take thousands of years of natural weathering for the lakes to return to their normal pH levels.

“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 may have pushed these lakes into an entirely new ecological state,” Tanentzap told CITYLAB.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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