Harper announces cuts to internationally recognized Experimental Lakes Area
Federal cuts target ‘living laboratory’ in Northern Ontario lakes
Study area helped unlock mysteries of acid rain, phosphatesBy Tom Spears, The Ottawa Citizen
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Federal+cuts+target+living+laboratory+Northern+Ontario+lakes/6644762/story.html#ixzz1xnoJUS6b
OTTAWA — Federal cuts threaten to close Ontario’s Experimental Lakes Area — dozens of lakes that taught us how acid rain works, what phosphates in detergents do to lakes, and which pollutants act like birth control pills.
The 46 lakes in northwestern Ontario are a living laboratory. Because they aren’t near industry or large cities, they’re clean to start with. That gave Fisheries and Oceans scientists a rare chance to add bits of controlled pollution and study what happened.
In one famous experiment, they hung a plastic curtain across a narrow part of a lake, and added phosphates to the water on only one side. That water turned green with algae.
Regulations limited phosphates in detergents quickly followed.
The journal Science singled it out as unique and valuable in the 1990s. Experimenting on an entire natural lakes creates real-world surprises that don’t occur in the limited setting of an aquarium, Science said.
Now all federal funding is being cut — about $600,000 from DFO for the basic station and $1.2 million in salaries for the scientists. Universities also support the station when they send biologists there to study, but this won’t be enough to keep it open.
All ELA staff have received “affected” letters.
Reaction from Canadian and U.S. biologists has been mostly shock, as no one else in the world does work like this and many of them use ELA facilities or data.
“ELA is just one example underway, albeit a major one,” said Jeremy Kerr, a University of Ottawa biologist who runs the Canadian Facility for Ecoinformatics Research Biology. “This is barely even Round One yet.
“I think they mean to eliminate the government’s capacity to measure anything that might stand in the way of unfettered resource extraction, while demonizing any who dare to speak out. How did we get to this position? It is amazing to have descended so far, so fast, and with barely a whimper.
“And now scientists have lost access to the primary sources of scientific equipment and facilities operation (in the Experimental Lakes). Everything about this is wrong, wrong, wrong.”
“The long-term data that scientists at ELA have gathered over the decades are respected internationally
for their quality and impact,” wrote John Smol, a nationally known biologist from Queen’s University.
“The ELA program was recognized nationally and internationally as a gold standard for this type of work. Whether they acknowledge it or not, politicians desperately need these data for evidence-based policy decisions.”
James Elser, a famous biologist from Arizona State University, called the decision to close “especially dumbfounding given the low costs of operating the ELA and its astonishing productivity and impact. Certainly this proposal should be abandoned.”
The lakes were widely used by biologists from other countries.
Recent work at the lakes has focused partly on how some pollutants are chemically similar to the reproductive hormone estrogen, and act like low-level birth control pills in our water.
“ELA has continued to do great stuff, just not as visible due to (federal) muzzling policies,” said David Schindler of the University of Alberta, a former ELA staffer. “We are truly entering the scientific dark ages in Canada.
“None of this will be lost on foreign investors, most of whom are more scientifically savvy than our pack of conservative politicians. Internationally, we are already a laughingstock.”© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Federal+cuts+target+living+laboratory+Northern+Ontario+lakes/6644762/story.html#ixzz1xnoDmSh9