In this Dec. 8, 2019, file photo, Isaiah Hunt, 2, of Norway, Maine wants to have a turn as his father Matthew Hunt augers through the 4 inches of ice on Halls Pond in Paris as his mother Chelsea Marshall keeps him from falling. Credit: Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal via AP

Lakes in Maine are freezing later and thawing sooner in recent years, a trend that has scientists worried about long-term impacts to water quality and aquatic life.

The Sun Journal reported that research shows Lake Auburn is now ice free for several weeks longer each year than it was decades ago.

Researchers and environmental advocates say the change could worsen water quality by promoting the growth of algae. Warmer water could also cause declines in fish populations by depleting food sources.

Merry Gallagher, a fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, told the Sun Journal that it’s critical that lake tributaries be protected, because they bring cool, oxygen-rich water into lakes, helping to offset the changing climate.

“There’s big changes happening all around,” Gallagher added. “And [the effects of climate change] is not something that we can continue to ignore.”