In his book first published as Walden; or, Life in the Woods, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau reflected on living simply in green spaces while cultivating self-sufficiency and carefully observing the natural world. His reflections were informed by his experiences living in a cabin near the edge of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Today, Walden Pond remains a cherished local landmark, where people enjoy hiking and swimming. However, since Thoreau’s time, Walden Pond has suffered from climate change, erosion and even human pee.

A man is in a small boat on Walden Pond. Behind him, trees with colorful leaves line the pond.

In the mid-1800s, Thoreau described the “crystalline purity” of the water in Walden Pond, a characteristic still observable today. However, that may soon change as the effects of climate change take hold. In a recently published paper on the environmental health of Walden Pond, researchers concluded that major changes in the algal content of the lake began in the 20th century and continue to threaten it today.

According to the paper, “The sediment darkening and high percentages of [algae] in the recent sediments of Walden Pond … indicate not only that the lake ecosystem is now quite different from that described by Thoreau but also that it may be primed for more severe reductions in water clarity in a warming future.”

Walden Pond in late June, with vibrant green trees lining the pond and a bright blue sky with some clouds.

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As global temperatures continue to rise, more people looking for relief from the humid summer weather in Massachusetts may find their way into the pond for a refreshing dip. Researchers concluded that more than half of the phosphorous content in the pond “may now be attributable to urine released by swimmers.” The good news is that Walden Pond has seen its environmental health improve in recent decades. However, vigilance is necessary to preserve Walden for future generations.

Via The Guardian

Images via Ekabhishek, Terryballard and Cbaile19