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World scientists defend Experimental Lakes Area

Scientists set-up a raft with one of a series of micro-meterological stations on a lake, in this undated photo. Scientific projects could die on the vine because of cuts to the federal Fisheries Department, university researchers say. THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Scientists set-up a raft with one of a series of micro-meterological stations on a lake, in this undated photo. Scientific projects could die on the vine because of cuts to the federal Fisheries Department, university researchers say. THE CANADIAN PRESS

American and Swiss scientists have come to the defence of the apparently-doomed Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) near Kenora.

In a new viewpoint article published in a leading scientific journal, Swiss and American scientists express their deep concern about the imminent closure of a unique freshwater research facility. The Experimental Lakes Area is world-class institution for understanding global threats to freshwater lakes, but the Canadian government is cancelling this program next year.

The viewpoint article was written by internationally-respected scientists. Janet Hering, Deborah Swackhamer, and William Schlesinger, and published in the top-ranking environmental science journal ‘Environmental Science & Technology’.

The Experimental Lakes Area consists of 58 pristine lakes and their watersheds in Ontario dedicated to whole-ecosystem research. The authors explain that there is "no other facility in the world that allows for the study of physical, chemical, and biological processes in whole-lake ecosystems at this order of magnitude".

Further, the authors emphasize that ELA has generated "policy-relevant science that has had major impact on political decision-making in the environmental arena for nearly four decades". The authors warn that "we can ill afford to abandon" this essential program.

"Closing ELA is a travesty - we will have lost forever so much future scientific understanding of our environment" exclaimed Swackhamer, Professor of Public Affairs and Public Health and Co-Director of the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota.

Editor-in-Chief of ‘Environmental Science & Technology’, Dr. Jerald Schnoor, explained why he chose to publish the article: "Aldo Leopold once said that the first rule of a tinkerer is to never throw away any parts. That is exactly what Canada has accomplished by performing research on whole lake ecosystems in the ELA. Three world-renowned scientists in Hering, Swackhamer, and Schlesinger have written an elegant plea to save the ELA, and ES&T was grateful to publish it."

The new article by Dr. Hering and colleagues is available electronically at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es3030512

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