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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/343

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339
THE RESPIRATION OF AN INLAND LAKE

inland lakes, even those whose depth is two hundred feet or more, become almost, or quite, saturated with oxygen at a temperature but little above the freezing point. This quantity amounts to about 10 c.c. per liter, or about 1 per cent. by volume; nearly twice as much as the water will hold at the highest summer temperature. In this condition as regards oxygen the lake goes into winter quarters, becomes covered with a sheet of ice in our latitudes, and is, therefore, shut off until spring from all further direct connection with the atmosphere. During this period the stock of oxygen is used up to some extent, especially in the water adjacent to the bottom. But as the vital processes of both plants and animals, and also those connected with decay, go on slowly at the low temperature of the water in winter, the amount of oxygen thus consumed is comparatively small, and most lakes contain an abundance for all forms of life at all depths, except perhaps in the strata very close to the bottom. This statement, though generally true, will not hold universally. In some ponds which are shallow and contain a large amount both of living organisms and of decomposing matter, the oxygen beneath the ice may become wholly used up. We all know of lakes where, if a hole is cut through the ice in late winter, the fish will crowd to it for air so eagerly and in such numbers as to be forced out on the ice. There are on record cases where an unusual exhaustion of the oxygen below the ice of a lake has caused the death of most of the fish. Such cases, however, are not common, and in the great majority of lakes the consumption of oxygen in winter does not go far enough to affect unfavorably their living inhabitants.

Associated with this partial exhaustion of oxygen, there is an increase during winter of the amount of carbon dioxide—the main gaseous product of respiration. This is not present in any observable quantity in the lake at the time of freezing, but it increases during the winter and the quantity at the bottom may become very considerable. The amount will be, in general, proportional to the amount of oxygen used up. In the spring, when the ice has melted, the water of the lake is once more uniform in temperature. It is put into motion once more by the wind and all parts of the water are brought into contact with the air. The carbon dioxide, which has been accumulating during the winter, is discharged or used by plants and the lake again becomes nearly saturated with oxygen. But, as the temperature in spring is higher than in the autumn, the amount of oxygen taken in is less, and since the temperature of the water continues to rise, the stock of oxygen is being diminished from this cause quite independently of any use made of the gas by the organisms of the lake.

The period of full oxygen saturation in the spring is a brief one in our climate. The season advances very rapidly and the surface water soon acquires a higher temperature than that at the bottom. This