The CAA and other federal regulations have clearly reduced emissions of NOx and SOx, acidic deposition, and the acidity and toxicity of waters in the ALTM lakes, but these changes have not triggered widespread recovery of brook trout populations or fish communities. The lack of detectable biological recovery appears to result from relatively recent chemical recovery and an insufficient period for species populations to take advantage of improved water quality. Recovery of extirpated species’ populations may simply require more time for individuals to migrate to and repopulate formerly occupied lakes. Supplemental stocking of selected species may be required in some lakes with no remnant (or nearby) populations or with physical barriers between the recovered lake and source populations. The lack of detectable biological recovery could also be related to our inability to calculate measures of uncertainty or error and, thus, examine temporal changes or differences in populations and community metrics in more depth (e.g., within individual lakes) using existing datasets. Indeed, recovery of brook trout populations and partial recovery of fish communities are documented in several lakes of the region, both with and without human intervention. Multiple fish surveys (annually or within the same year) or the use of mark and recapture methods within individual lakes would help alleviate the issue (provide measures of error for key fishery metrics) within the context of a more focused sampling strategy. Efforts to evaluate and detect recovery in fish assemblages from streams may be more effective than in lakes because various life stages, species’ populations, and entire assemblages are easier to quantify, with known levels of error, in streams than in lakes. Such long-term monitoring efforts could increase our ability to detect and quantify biological recovery in recovering (neutralizing) surface waters throughout the Adirondack Region.
Additional publication details
State/Local Government Series
Response of fish assemblages to decreasing acid deposition in Adirondack Mountain lakes
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority