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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/355

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351
THE RESPIRATION OF AN INLAND LAKE

marsh gas in appreciable quantities, often becoming very great as the bottom is approached. These gases do not seem to have any very definite unfavorable effect on the life of the lake. Diffusion is so slow that they do not reach the upper water and experiments indicate that their presence in the lower water adds little, or nothing, to the unfavorable conditions brought about by the absence of oxygen.

It should be noted that these processes involve a loss of material for plant food. Carbon dioxide, produced by aerobic decomposition, is available for plant food in the lake, or, if not there, then elsewhere as part of the general stock of that gas in the atmosphere. But marsh gas has no such relation to plants and all substances converted into it are lost to the cycle of life. Its production means just so much reduction of the food supply of the lake. The same may be said of the carbonized, peat-like substances produced from the partial decomposition of plants under water. So long as these remain under water, they are practically withdrawn from the food supply. Against all these influences which tend to diminish the stock of food for its inhabitants, the lake is contending, but with imperfect means and only partial success.

I have thus hastily and imperfectly sketched the respiration of an inland lake, not because the story is known with any fullness or completeness, but partly because our present knowledge, imperfect though it is, shows that the subject is one of great scientific interest; partly also because many practical hints regarding the utilization of lakes in fish culture can come from our knowledge of respiratory conditions. We are accustomed to think of the food-producing capacity of the lake as the factor which determines the kind and amount of the crop of fish which it can produce. It is a somewhat new thought to me, and I have no doubt that it is equally new to many of you, that the respiratory capacity of the lake may have even greater influence in this matter than has the capacity for the production of food. Yet it is plain that such is the case and that a knowledge of the respiratory conditions of the lakes in which our fish are to be planted is necessary if the best results are to be reached.