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Human impact and ecosystemic health at Lake Baikal

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Abstract Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia is the deepest and (by volume) largest lake on Earth. Among the most ancient lakes, it is home to thousands of endemic species. Lake Baikal is well‐known for its water purity, especially its dominant deep‐water layers, which consist of pristine, drinking‐quality water and is inhabited by unique endemics with enormous biodiversity. But some coastal sites of this giant lake (mainly localized in isolated shallow bays and littoral zones close to settlements and industrial sites) are suffering from an environmental crisis that threatens the water's quality and the ecosystem it supports. As part of the global ecosystem, Lake Baikal is already facing significant impacts from global climate change, which, in turn, increase the risks and consequences of local anthropogenic effects. Although the lake is protected by federal law, human activities are nevertheless having a growing negative impact on its ecosystem. Political, economic, and social factors result in cascading natural consequences in water quality, coastal sustainability, pollution sinks, water level management, forest maintenance, fire control and biodiversity. While Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known and valued around the world, it remains vulnerable to worsening threats that must be addressed if humanity is to preserve this unique ecosystem and its endemic species into the future. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Science of Water > Water Quality Engineering Water > Planning Water
Fluctuation in flood level in the area of the Selenga Delta between 2016 (low water year) and 2020 (high water year)
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Fluctuation in flood level in Angarsky Sor Bay between 2016 (low water year) and 2020 (high water year)
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BPPM reservoirs with untreated lignin sludge and other waste
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Densely packed tourist cabins at Maloe More bay. Photo credit: Daniil TeterinSource: Courtesy of rubabr.com
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Transformation of the water protection zone of lake Baikal
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Population density in Baikal Natural Territory by administrative districts and by settlements (in number of people)
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The catchment area of Lake Baikal and of its main tributaries. *Currently active mining sites on the Russian part of the Baikal catchment area
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Location of Lake Baikal and its ecological zones
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Tree cover loss (in red) and tree cover gain (in black) in the BNT for the periods from 2001 to 2019 and from 2001 to 2012, respectively. Zoomed in: Tree cover loss in Olkhonsky and Kabansky districts, mainly as a result of the wildfires in 2014–2016. *Tree cover in the year 2000, defined as canopy closure for all vegetation taller than 5 m in height. Encoded as a percentage per output grid cell, in the range 0–100. Global forest cover gain 2000–2012 (in black): forest gain during the period 2000–2012, defined as a non‐forest to forest change entirely within the study period. Gross forest cover loss (in red): forest loss during the period 2000–2019, defined as a change from a forest to non‐forest state. (Hansen et al., 2013)
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Engineering Water > Planning Water
Science of Water > Water Quality
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems

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