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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/347

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343
THE RESPIRATION OF AN INLAND LAKE

creasingly ineffective, and during the summer its action is confined to the upper warmed layer of the lake, and the lower, cooler, water is wholly shut off from the direct influence of the wind currents.

These facts show that an inland lake has an extremely inefficient apparatus for absorbing and distributing oxygen, and the net result is that in many lakes the amount and character of the higher life which the lake will support is conditioned by the amount of oxygen which the lake contains rather than by the amount of food which it can produce. The oxygen in the lower and cooler water of the lakes can not be renewed between spring and fall. This amount would be indeed ample to sustain a large amount of animal life in full activity. But its use can not be confined to the necessities of ordinary life. The processes of decomposition draw upon it much more heavily than does the animal or the ordinary vegetable life. All the plants and animals of the upper water, which die and sink into the deeper strata, the leaves blown into the lake, and the material washed in from the shore, decompose in the cooler water and in the process of decomposition use up a great amount of oxygen. This depletion of the stock of oxygen goes on with a rapidity which varies with the amount of decomposing matter dropping into the lower water, which to some extent regulates the rapidity of decomposition, and, with the depth of the water, on which depends the quantity of oxygen contained in it. Each of these factors may and does differ in different lakes, but the result is that in a very large proportion of our inland lakes the bottom water loses its stock of oxygen comparatively early in the season and becomes uninhabitable for higher animals. This fact excludes from our lakes a good many kinds of animals which they might otherwise support, and very greatly limits the quantity of the higher life which the lake is able to maintain. A lake which loses its bottom oxygen, for example, can not support a fish such as the lake trout, which must retire to the deeper and cooler water during the summer. To causes such as this may probably be attributed a considerable number of our failures in the planting of fish in our inland lakes. From causes such as these, the whole of the lower water, containing half, or more, of the volume of the lake, may become uninhabitable during the season when life is most abundant; and the quantity of life which the lake supports may be correspondingly limited.

Still further, since the rapidity with which the oxygen is exhausted depends on the amount of material which is deposited in the lower water, those lakes whose upper water contains the greatest quantity of vegetable life and which can therefore support the greatest amount of animal life, use up the oxygen of the lower water most rapidly. It looks, therefore, as if we were in a somewhat unfavorable situation as regards the possibilities of higher life in the lower water of inland