even though scientific studies on flowing waters and wetlands in some cases predate studies on lakes.

Even today, many aquatic scientists in North America associate the word limnology with the study of lakes (and reservoirs). To the extent that there is any general awareness of the word limnology, this perception applies to the public as well. There are historical reasons for this situation, but it has caused difficulties in coalescing the various branches of limnology into a more coordinated and organized science.

This chapter traces the history of the study of lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and wetlands. It includes biographical sketches of some of the individuals (limnologists as well as other scientists) who have contributed to the understanding of inland aquatic ecosystems and significantly influenced the field of limnology. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the current status of limnology with special reference to professional and educational issues in the United States.


The beginnings of limnology as a modern science usually are traced to the work of a few late nineteenth century biologists who focused on lake studies. The founders of lacustrine limnology defined the scope and nature of the field in a way that survives remarkably intact to the present day; they viewed the subject broadly and integratively. Francois Forel (see Box 2-1) was the first scientist to use the term limnology in a publication. His three-volume treatise on Lake Geneva (bordered by Switzerland and France), published over the period 1892 to 1904, is considered the first book on limnology, and it was encyclopedic in scope. Its 14 chapters define the main supporting fields of modern lake limnology (Edmondson, 1994) and reinforce the idea that lake limnology is the application of all relevant basic sciences to the analysis of lakes as fundamental units of study.

The integrative nature of limnology was stressed even before Forel coined the term limnology. In a prescient article published in 1887, Stephen Forbes (Box 2-2) described lakes as ''microcosms," or little worlds. Although the term "ecosystem" was not introduced for another half century (Tansley, 1935), Forbes defined an approach that presaged this concept. He proposed that lake studies should focus on many of the processes that today define the field of ecosystem ecology: mineral cycling, production and decomposition of organic matter, food web interactions and their impacts on the structure of biological communities, and the effects of physical conditions on biological communities. Forbes viewed these topics as essential to understanding lakes as functioning, integrated systems. The notion of lakes as microcosms (or integrated ecosystems) has pervaded their study ever since Forbes' time, even though the concept has

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