LakeBaikal, located in the south-eastern Siberia in the Russian Federation, haslong been recognized as one of the most marvelousfresh-water ecosystems in the whole world, particularly with respect to itsage, volume, depth and the high degree of endemism which subsists in this surface water body. Lake Baikal is the world’s deepestlake (1642 m, Lake Baikal Map, 1992) and holds the largest volume of surfacefresh water in the world (approximately 20 per cent of global resources;Wetzel, 1983). The second essential aspect that distinguishes Lake Baikal fromother deep lakes is that lake Baikal contains a lot of oxygen. This is dueto regular renewal of the deep waters every spring and autumn (Weiss et al.
,1991; Shimaraev et al., 1994) and results in the oxidation of even the deepestsediment surfaces (Leibovich, 1983; Martin et al., 1998). More importantly,this oxygenation supports an extensive, and almost wholly, endemic deep-waterfauna (Fryer, 1991).
Biodiversityis one of the significant criteria which defines this lake. Nowadays, over 2500animal and plant species have been recorded in Baikal. What is more, over 75per cent are considered to be endemic.
LakeBaikal has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1996. Despite this fact,the lake continues to run into danger from industrial contamination,agricultural run-off and other environmental problems, which involve surroundingmining activities.Theaim of this essay is to focus on the aspects of Baikal that make it a key momentfor scientific research: hydrological properties; economic importance and anthropogenicimpacts that affect water quality of lake Baikal. 1. Hydrologyof lake Baikal2.
1 Description of BaikalLakeBaikal, in southern Siberia in Russia, is a rift lake formed 25?30 millionyears ago (Garmaeva,2001). Local climate is formeddue to pronounced Baikal winds. The water mass has an influence on theatmosphere of the coastal area. Spring there comes 10-15 days later than inneighboring areas. Autumn lasts for a long time.
Summer, as a rule, is cool,and winter is not frosty. Nevertheless, in winter, the surface of the lake iscovered by a thick ice with multiple kilometers of cracks. Baikal freezesalmost completely, not counting the site near the headwaters of the Angara.Morethan 360 rivers and streams flow into the lake whilst only one river, theAngara River, flows out. Sixty percent of the influx of the water flows throughthe Selenga River. The waters of Lake Baikal are particularly clear with Secchidepths of at least 20 m (Hampton et al., 2008) but as low as 1?2 m in someshallow areas (Kozhova and Izmest’eva, 1998).
Summer surface water temperatureranges between 12 and 14 oC but climate change has been warming these waters atan average rate of approximately 0.20 oC/decade (Hampton et al., 2008). Table1 shows the representation of quantitative data of lake Baikal.Thenature of Lake Baikal consists of 56 species of fish from 14 families; 27 fromthe Cottoidae family are endemic and might be found at all depths (Kozhova and Silow,1998). The endemic omul is a planktivorous arctic whitefish that accounts fortwo thirds of the annual commercial catch (Garmaeva, 2001). In the time between1940 and 1950, the number of omuls decreased.
Accordingly, a demand arose toban the commercial fishing of the omul. In turn, it helped to partially restoretheir abundance, but it was not possible to return to the historical level.Otherimportant fish species include two littoral predators, the Siberian taimen(Hucho taimen) and the lenok (Brachymstax lenok) (Matveyev et al.
, 1998), whosepopulations, alongside with the omul, are considered to be decreasing inrespect of hydroelectric dams, overfishing, and contaminationwhich has an influence on breeding and rearing site. In Lake Baikal, there are15 commercially exploited fish species and over 50 registered commercialfishing enterprises (Brunello et al., 2004). Recreational fishing andice-fishing are not prohibited throughout the entire territory of the lake.Suchspecies as black grayling, European perch, omul, pike, bullhead and sturgeon arein a great request for fishing.
In Mongolia, the taimen, a solely freshwatersalmonid that reaches lengths in excess of 2 m and weighs up to 95 kg (Matveyevet al., 1998), is the main objective of anglers in the Selenga River and itstributaries. Loss of spawning, excessive fishing and water qualitydeterioration have become the main factors in the dwindling Taimen populations.1. Economicimportance of Baikal and human activities which influence water quality 3.1 Population growth and theeconomy Thehuman population in the catchment is low, approximately 2.5 million people, butsteadily increasing (Kozhova and Silow, 1998).
The largest number, about 60-70%of population of people have residence in the southern part of the watershed.TheRussian GDP per capita is $4,000 and $2,200 in Mongolia (Brunello et al.,2004).
Fisheryis not the main source of profit for the economy of this area.Morethan 60% of the Baikal coastline is occupied by Buryatia, which is located inthe south-central part of Siberia. This republic is regarded as an importantagricultural zone and owns huge deposit of commercial minerals. Undoubtedly, extractionof commercial minerals is a growing industry from year to year.
However, this policyhas a negative environmental impact on Lake Baikal with respect to the future.Althoughfishing plays a small role within the local economy, there is an interest inthis natural object which is increasing. The lake is also an attractive placefor tourism. Various excursions, diving, ski resorts, treatment on Lake Baikalare included in the list of the most common activities. It cannot be deniedthat economic indicators tend to improve due to popularity and attractiveness.
Consequently, a demand arose for the development of the constructionsector. In Irkutsk, many hotels were built, and as a result, there was a needto create new jobs. This aspect has a direct impact on the state of theenvironment in the lake. The higher the interest of people towards this lake,the higher the regional industry is developed.
1.2 Anthropogenic impacts Althoughthe resources of Lake Baikal have undoubtedly been exploited over a long periodof time, recorded over-exploitation began at the end of the 19th century (AnsonMacKay, 2012). Thepopulation of the southern shore of the lake began to increase when theconstruction of the Trans-Siberian Railway took place from 1887 to 1916. Great impacton the development of industrial activity and population growth in the vicinityof Lake Baikal was during the Second World War.
As a result, this affected thegrowth of the level of chemical contamination. One should note here that thenumber of ships that pollute the watershed has increased. Moreover, a hugeimpact on Lake Baikal was achieved through the construction of a hydroelectricpower station in 1959 in Irkutsk.Itshould be emphasized that Baikal’sk Pulp & Paper Mill and the Selenginsk Pulp& Carton Mill at the Selenga River produce hundreds of thousands of ton ofbleached pulp per year. Also, the factories are responsible for dischargingpollutants such as sulfates and organic chlorine compounds into the lake.Thepopulation growth and the industrial development have an impact on the environmentalhealth near Lake Baikal.
The small settlements that lived along the SelengaRiver grew, and the agricultural industry intensified. It is also noteworthythat the mining industry and agricultural activities are also sources of toxiccompounds. 1. ConclusionsTo conclude, Lake Baikal is the largest natural sourceof fresh water on the Earth. Uniqueness is given to it by the diversity of theplant world, more than half of which are endemic. This natural resource alsohas a huge value in the lives of people living near the lake. However, as thepopulation increases in the territory of Lake Baikal, the problem of the safetyof this water body appears.
With the development of infrastructure, there aremany factors that adversely affect the environment and water quality. We cannotignore the fact that human influence on Lake Baikal can further worsen. This mustbe carefully controlled in order to maintain the environmental properties ofthis unique lacustrine ecosystem and to preclude potentially devastating andirreversible environmental alterations. Moreover, efforts should be made to implementa long-term investigation and monitoring program that estimates environmentalimpacts throughout the lake Baikal.
It might also render assistance to resourcemanagement decisions in preserving the world’s largest freshwater lake.