Tourism and Climate Change Threaten Lake Baikal, a Unique Global Treasure
Posted April 27, 2021
External Article: Advanced Science News
Kate Pride Brown, associate professor in the School of History and Sociology, published an adaptation of her paper "Human Impact and Ecosystem Health at Lake Baikal," on April 27, 2021 in Advanced Science News.
The publication addresses the human-created threats facing Lake Baikal in Russia, the world's deepest freshwater lake. The effects are both a result of increased human activity in the immediate area around the lake, as well as the global impacts of climate change.
Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia is one of the world’s natural wonders. Deeper than the Grand Canyon, older than the Amazon Rainforest, as voluminous as all the U.S. Great Lakes combined, Lake Baikal is home to more species than any other lake on Earth, many of which are found nowhere else. Baikal water is exceptionally pure, fully oxygenated at its maximum depth, and covered in winter by a meter of clear ice. These unique conditions have allowed for the evolution of a complex and interdependent ecosystem that maintains the lake’s purity and the flourishing of its web of life.
However, human encroachment has threatened the stability of Baikal’s ecosystem. These anthropogenic threats began in the early 20th century; by the end of that century a new legal regime arose to meet these threats. However, these protective efforts were never fully implemented, and the new millennium ushered in a series of novel problems, even while the legacy of 20th century harm has not been fully resolved. Some of these threats are local in origin, while others are more global in scope. But without concerted action by governments, industries, and individuals, a global treasure faces continued deterioration.