The State of the Lake: Lake George - A Living Legacy

Dr. Jeffery Short
Special to the Lake George Mirror
October 10, 2014

The natural beauty of Lake George is clear, yet the mysterious processes whereby the lake transforms the four classical elements of earth, air, water and (as sunlight) fire into fish, turtles, and mosquitos, all supported by a food web of subtle complexity, are less so. It all happens under water, mostly hidden from view, but every day the lake creates life, to the enduring benefit of those who visit or live near it.

The complexity of food webs usually makes natural ecosystems resilient, but sometimes makes them vulnerable. Change brings adaptation, and adaptations may be small or large, beneficial or not. Because of its relatively healthy condition overall, Lake George retains considerable capacity to respond to changes while still functioning more or less the same ecologically. Lake George has coped with alien fish species deliberately introduced to the lake, along with overfishing, for more than a century. In fact, the first rigorous biological survey of the lake in the early 1920s was aimed at reversing the decline of fishing. But external stressors imposed too quickly or for too long, can bring the lake to an ecological tipping point involving a drastic reorganization of its food web, abruptly changing the character of the lake. Avoiding these tipping points is the primary goal of enlightened management, requiring a clear understanding of how stressors threaten the lake’s ecological stability for success…

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