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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/350

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346
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

water of the lake in summer. If the oxygen of this region is studied, it rarely happens that the quantity found is the amount which would be theoretically expected, according to the laws of the absorption of gases by water at different temperatures. It is sometimes largely in excess of the theoretical amount, and sometimes is considerably deficient. The fact is that the amount of oxygen in the upper water of the lake is the resultant of very numerous and variable forces. The lake may or may not be absorbing oxygen from the air. If saturated, it will give off oxygen to the air as the water warms, or will take it in as it cools. Both of these processes go on somewhat slowly, and the oxygen is not given off or absorbed as rapidly as the water warms or cools. Into the water the green plants are discharging oxygen during the hours when the light is sufficiently strong; from the water both plants and animals are taking oxygen to assist their vital operations; and the process of decomposition is aiding to exhaust the stock of oxygen. Thus the amount present at any given moment will depend on the relative value of these forces; some of them positive; others negative; and all varying not only from day to day, but from hour to hour. Nor do these factors exhaust the list. The wind has something to do here; during a calm period the oxygen content of the upper water may differ from that of a stormy period. The vital condition of the successive crops of algæ, as they come and go, may determine for the time the predominance of the manufacture of starch, with accompanying liberation of oxygen, or decomposition, with partial exhaustion of oxygen. Thus the ability of the green plant to set free oxygen into the upper water may be of great value in maintaining the supply of the lake.

This power may be far more important in the lower water. If the transparency of the water and the thickness of the warm layer are such that a good deal of light can penetrate to the colder water, algæ will be able to manufacture starch in the upper part of this stratum. Thus in the region which is practically cut off from access to the atmosphere, large amounts of oxygen may be set free. There may be enough not only to serve the ordinary needs of the stratum, but the water may be saturated or even oversaturated with the gas. To illustrate this point I give a diagram (Fig. 1) showing the vertical distribution of oxygen in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This figure shows clearly the position and amount of the manufactured oxygen, and the addition which it makes to the thickness of that part of the lake that has abundance of oxygen. Lakes whose habitable portion would otherwise be only twelve to twenty feet in thickness may have this depth nearly or quite doubled by the presence of the manufactured oxygen. The plants in this undisturbed cooler water find a peculiarly favorable situation for growth. They obtain for their food the products of decomposition,