After 60 years of cumulative research, Russian and American scientists have solid evidence that the world’s largest lake is responding to the intensification of global warming.
Cited by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a “World Heritage Site,” Siberia’s Lake Baikal is a hotspot of biological diversity, hosting 2,500 plant and animal species. At 25 million years old, Baikal contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, making it the oldest and deepest lake in the world. Because of its volume, scientists say changes in its temperature are significant indicators of regional global warming.
Stephanie Hampton, deputy director of UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), and Wellesley College associate biology professor at Marianne Moore reported the collaborative findings of six Siberian and American scientists in the scientific journal Global Change Biology on May 1.
According to their report, “Increases in water temperature (1.21Â°C since 1946), chlorophyll a (300% since 1979) and an influential group of zooplankton grazers (335% since 1946) have important implications for nutrient cycling and food web dynamics.”
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and sponsored by NCEAS, researchers drew from three generations of investigations made by one Siberian family, giving scientists the necessary tools to map a climate change trend. According to Moore, Professor Mikhail Kozhov began collecting and analyzing water samples in the 1940’s and was succeeded by his daughter and granddaughter, Lyubov’ Izmest’eva, who co-authored the findings. Based at Irkutsk State University, the family project survived both Stalin and the fall of the Soviet Union, and is now being carried on with progressive technology, according to Henry Gholz, NSF program director. “Thanks to the dedication of local scientists, who were also keen observers, couple with modern synthetic approaches, we can now visualize and appreciate the far-reaching changes occurring in this lake,” said Gholz in a press statement.
Aligning its rise in temperature with Lakes Superior, Tenganyika and Tahoe, scientists have concluded through long-term research that a trend in global warming is an active threat. “Warming of this isolated but enormous lake is a clear signal that climate change has affected even the most remote corners of our planet,” said co-author Hampton.