As glaciers recede, the mysterious life of a newborn lake is revealed

As Glacier National Park’s namesake ice masses retreat, researchers are beginning to puzzle out the mysteries of the mineral-blue lakes bejeweling the remote alpine basins in their wake, where the Crown of the Continent’s melting snow and ice regulate the region’s water quantity and quality. And as these newborn lakes start to fledge in their ecological infancy — as colonies of planktonic crustaceans take up residency and complex food webs begin to form — scientists have realized that chronicling their early stages of development can provide a glimpse into the region’s past as well as its future.

In some cases, the new lakes haven’t been named, while in others they have never been studied, and the research represents pioneering science in the face of a warming climate.

Hikers approach newly formed lakes below Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park.

Beacon file photo

“These are brand new lakes and no one really knows anything about them,” Jim Elser, the director of the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station, said.

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