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|Darrin Fresh Water Institute|
Over the years, acid deposition, commonly referred to as acid rain, has rendered dozens of lakes in the Adirondacks uninhabitable for fish and other wildlife. Now, researchers at Rensselaers Margaret A. and David M. Darrin 40 Fresh Water Institute indicate that some of the most severely affected lakes in that region are showing signs of recovery.
Levels of nitrogen influenced by nitric oxide, a primary source of acid rain, have decreased moderately in 18 of the 30 lakes the Darrin Fresh Water Institute has monitored since 1994 through its federally funded Adirondack Effects Assessment Program. There also has been an overall reduction of sulfuric acid, another main contributor of acid rain that comes from industry pollutants.
The reductions may be correlated with the 1990 Clean Air Act, a federal mandate to significantly reduce emissions that cause acidification, says Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, professor of biology and director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute. More research is needed to pinpoint the exact reasons for the apparent changes seen in the lakes in the southwestern part of the Adirondack Park, an area hardest hit by acid rain.
Recovery doesnt happen overnight, says Charles Boylen, professor of biology. One of the reasons we need long-term data is that other factors can come into play. More or less rainfall in a year, for instance, can lead to a temporary shift in acid-rain levels. You need to track specific data over 10 to 15 years.
The Institutes long-term strategy recently has led to a $2.36 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The five-year grant will allow the researchers and their collaborators to study acid rain effects in four more lakes in addition to monitoring the other 30.
The Institute is named after the David M. Darrin 40 family, who started the programs first endowment in the 1970s and bought the land for its current site in Bolton Landing. For more than 25 years, research conducted there has helped increase public awareness of environmental issues while contributing to the debate on tough issues concerning the protection of land, water, and air. The Institutes all-encompassing study of fresh water systems and ecological processes has earned it high regard in the scientific community and high marks from the public.
|Rensselaer Magazine: March 2002|
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