ADIRONDACKS – At one time, Brook Trout Lake in the Adirondacks was full of fish.

That was before the lake’s once pristine waters became too acidic for fish to live in, the result of acid rain.

But after amendments to the federal Clean Air Act went into effect in 1990, the lake began to recover, and several years ago the state Department of Environmental Conversation reintroduced fish to Brook Trout Lake. Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said she believes it’s the first time fish have successfully returned to a lake where all of the fish died because of acid rain.

It may be a sign of things to come.

lakes study

Researchers at the Darrin Institute in Bolton Landing have been studying 30 lakes in the southwest corner of Adirondack Park, one of the areas most severely impacted by acid rain, since 1994. The idea, Nierzwicki-Bauer said, is to assess how these lakes have fared since the Clean Air Act went into effect. A paper on the topic was published in a recent edition of the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Biology, and a new database contains information available to anyone researching acid rain.

“It’s good information,” said John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council. “It’s an important move forward. We’d like to learn as much as possible.”

So far, 26 of the 30 lakes have shown a decline in acidity, although improvements varied from lake to lake, with factors such as how deep the water is and the steepness of the shoreline having an effect, Nierzwicki-Bauer said. Now there are several other fishless lakes, she said, that would be good candidates for fish reintroduction.

“In general, the fact that we saw an increase in 26 of 30 lakes is pretty good,” Nierzwicki-Bauer said.

Other research has focused on the water chemistry of lakes impacted by acid rain. What made the Darrin Fresh Water Institute project unique is that it looked at water chemistry but also at “biota” – the organisms that make up the food chain in the area being studied. Researchers studied the population of fish and aquatic plants, but also zooplankton, the animal form of plankton, phytoplankton, the plant form of plankton, and bacteria.

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