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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/348

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344
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

lakes. Those lakes whose food supply is such that they are capable of supporting large quantities of animal life—I may say for our purposes, large numbers of fish—are likely from that very fact to exhaust the stock of oxygen in the lower water, which thus becomes uninhabitable; while those lakes whose lower water is fully habitable are likely to be so poor in organic life that they can support only a limited number of fish. It may be that further study will show that this relation is not so unfavorable as it now appears, but at present we must face the probability that it exists.

A noteworthy exception to this statement should be made in the case of very deep lakes—lakes two hundred or more feet in depth—in which the quantity of the lower water is so great and the consequent amount of dissolved oxygen is so considerable that no ordinary amount of decomposing material can exhaust it or materially reduce it. This is the case, for example, with Green Lake (237 feet in depth) in Wisconsin, and the same statement would doubtless hold for the deep lakes of New York and similar bodies of water. Such lakes may support an abundant population of fish both in the warmer and in the cooler water. If they do not do so, the fault does not lie with the oxygen supply.

Thus we see that if we desire to determine the capacity of a lake for the development of higher life, we must consider not only its capacity for food production, but also its respiratory conditions. It may be that an imperfect respiratory mechanism renders a very large share of the bottom of the lake wholly uninhabitable for animal life during the warmer part of the year; that while, for instance, mud-living insect larvæ may be found in the mud around the lake to a depth of twenty or thirty feet, they are excluded by the absence of oxygen from the entire bottom of the lake beyond this depth, an area of perhaps many square miles. The supply of food which the lake offers to the higher animals may thus be greatly limited by the lack of oxygen. It may be true also that the greater part of the volume of the water of the lake is uninhabitable for similar reasons, and that a lake whose surface appearance would indicate that it is capable of supporting enormous quantities of fish may be very considerably restricted in this respect by its respiratory capacity. Each lake should be studied as to both food and oxygen if an intelligent economic use is to be made of its waters; and when this is done, the possibilities of use will often be found to depend on the respiratory mechanism.

I have said nothing on another side of the methods of absorbing and transporting gases in a lake. The same processes which take oxygen from the surface bring waste gases to it and they are as efficient, or as inefficient, in the latter operation as in the former. Processes of absorption and transportation have much to do with the story of the