The world’s largest and most ancient lake is heating up at an alarming rate, scientists have discovered.
Lake Baikal in Siberia, which contains one fifth of all fresh water on the planet surface, is warming three times faster than the average global air temperature, according to an extraordinary 60 year study of the lake undertaken by three generations of Russian scientists.
The temperature rise has already caused significant changes to the lake’s ecology, and threatens the survival of many unique species living there, half of which exist nowhere else.
“It is shocking to see such a rapid rise in temperature in the world’s largest body of freshwater,” says Stephanie Hampton, an ecologist at the University of California in Santa Barbara, who led the analysis of the lake data which is published in Global Change Biology.
“This science is fascinating and very important,” says John Smol, an expert on how climate affects freshwater ecosystems at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario. Last year, Smol published a study showing that small, shallow ponds in the high Arctic are drying out. Small bodies of water should be very sensitive to climate change, he says, but “even an enormous lake system like Lake Baikal is now being affected by anthropogenic climate change.”
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