October 1, 2012 (MONTRÉAL) – The widespread concern surrounding the federal Government’s decision to cancel the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) program is front and center in the October issue of the Journal of Plankton Research. An editorial article by Dr. Beatrix Beisner, Assistant Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal, outlines the serious implications that the Government’s decision will have on the collection of invaluable long-term data on freshwater lakes, as well as its impact on Canada’s leading aquatic scientists.
“Unless it is reversed, the decision by the Canadian government will end one of the best long-term and ecosystem-scale data gathering program of in situ freshwater plankton ecology within North America and probably globally,” writes Dr. Beisner in her editorial article. Her article also emphasizes that the cancellation of the ELA program “represents a loss not just for the Canadian scientific community, but for the international one as well.”
In the wake of the upcoming ELA closure, the Government is expecting universities to pick up the slack in regards to data collection and archiving. However, Dr. Beisner points out that this will simply not be the case, because not only do universities not have access to the necessary funds that enable the proper collection of long-term data, but federal grants are explicitly not given for the purpose of monitoring work. She concludes “the government of Canada is ensuring that much of the long-term data collection on lakes will largely disappear.”
Dr. Beisner was motivated to write this article because she believes ELA “is critically important for understanding the biodiversity, water quality, and ecosystem functioning of lakes.” She hopes “the Harper government will re-consider its decision to close such an important jewel in Canada’s research crown.” “As a country which contains more freshwater than any other,” Beisner asserts that, “Canada has a moral imperative to support such a first class research institution.”
Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Plankton Research, Roger Harris, was “dismayed to hear of the closure of such a valuable research institution.” He said the Journal was moved to commission an editorial because of “concerns about cuts to aquatic research in Canada.”
The article, “A plankton research gem: the probable closure of the Experimental Lakes Area, Canada” (J. Plankton Res. 2012, 34(10): 849-852, doi:10.1093/plankt/fbs052), is available on-line: http://plankt.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/10/849.full.