The Canadian government has drawn ire for a controversial decision to shutter the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a world-renowned facility that conducts research on water quality and fisheries.
American researchers say the loss of Canada’s ELA will affect U.S. environmental protection and policy.
For 44 years, the ELA has served as an outdoor laboratory where scientists have studied the impacts of chemicals and pollutants on natural ecosystems. Located in northwestern Ontario, the ELA comprises 58 pristine lakes and their watersheds. It is the only place in the world where researchers can conduct experiments on entire lakes—adding and removing chemicals to explore how ecosystems respond to disturbances.
But this May, the Canadian government announced that it was stripping the budget for the facility, and that the ELA would close in March 2013.
“It is sort of like the U.S. government shutting down Los Alamos—its most important nuclear physics site—or taking the world’s best telescope and turning it off,” Jim Elser, an aquatic ecologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, told Nature.
ELA studies have had direct impact on U.S. environmental regulation, says Dr. Cynthia Gilmour, Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland.
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