Lake 1983; Martin et al., 1998). More importantly, this

Lake
Baikal, located in the south-eastern Siberia in the Russian Federation, has
long been recognized as one of the most marvelous
fresh-water ecosystems in the whole world, particularly with respect to its
age, volume, depth and the high degree of endemism which subsists in this surface water body. Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest
lake (1642 m, Lake Baikal Map, 1992) and holds the largest volume of surface
fresh water in the world (approximately 20 per cent of global resources;
Wetzel, 1983). The second essential aspect that distinguishes Lake Baikal from
other deep lakes is that lake Baikal contains a lot of oxygen. This is due
to 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 deepest
sediment surfaces (Leibovich, 1983; Martin et al., 1998). More importantly,
this oxygenation supports an extensive, and almost wholly, endemic deep-water
fauna (Fryer, 1991).

Biodiversity
is one of the significant criteria which defines this lake. Nowadays, over 2500
animal and plant species have been recorded in Baikal. What is more, over 75
per cent are considered to be endemic.

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Lake
Baikal 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 surrounding
mining activities.

The
aim of this essay is to focus on the aspects of Baikal that make it a key moment
for scientific research: hydrological properties; economic importance and anthropogenic
impacts that affect water quality of lake Baikal.

 

1.   Hydrology
of lake Baikal

2.1 Description of Baikal

Lake
Baikal, in southern Siberia in Russia, is a rift lake formed 25?30 million
years ago (Garmaeva,
2001). Local climate is formed
due to pronounced Baikal winds. The water mass has an influence on the
atmosphere of the coastal area. Spring there comes 10-15 days later than in
neighboring 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 is
covered by a thick ice with multiple kilometers of cracks. Baikal freezes
almost completely, not counting the site near the headwaters of the Angara.

More
than 360 rivers and streams flow into the lake whilst only one river, the
Angara River, flows out. Sixty percent of the influx of the water flows through
the Selenga River. The waters of Lake Baikal are particularly clear with Secchi
depths of at least 20 m (Hampton et al., 2008) but as low as 1?2 m in some
shallow areas (Kozhova and Izmest’eva, 1998). Summer surface water temperature
ranges between 12 and 14 oC but climate change has been warming these waters at
an average rate of approximately 0.20 oC/decade (Hampton et al., 2008).

Table
1 shows the representation of quantitative data of lake Baikal.The
nature of Lake Baikal consists of 56 species of fish from 14 families; 27 from
the 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 for
two thirds of the annual commercial catch (Garmaeva, 2001). In the time between
1940 and 1950, the number of omuls decreased. Accordingly, a demand arose to
ban the commercial fishing of the omul. In turn, it helped to partially restore
their abundance, but it was not possible to return to the historical level.Other
important fish species include two littoral predators, the Siberian taimen
(Hucho taimen) and the lenok (Brachymstax lenok) (Matveyev et al., 1998), whose
populations, alongside with the omul, are considered to be decreasing in
respect of hydroelectric dams, overfishing, and contamination
which has an influence on breeding and rearing site. In Lake Baikal, there are
15 commercially exploited fish species and over 50 registered commercial
fishing enterprises (Brunello et al., 2004). Recreational fishing and
ice-fishing are not prohibited throughout the entire territory of the lake.Such
species as black grayling, European perch, omul, pike, bullhead and sturgeon are
in a great request for fishing. In Mongolia, the taimen, a solely freshwater
salmonid that reaches lengths in excess of 2 m and weighs up to 95 kg (Matveyev
et al., 1998), is the main objective of anglers in the Selenga River and its
tributaries. Loss of spawning, excessive fishing and water quality
deterioration have become the main factors in the dwindling Taimen populations.1.   Economic
importance of Baikal and human activities which influence water quality   3.1 Population growth and the
economy The
human population in the catchment is low, approximately 2.5 million people, but
steadily increasing (Kozhova and Silow, 1998). The largest number, about 60-70%
of population of people have residence in the southern part of the watershed.The
Russian GDP per capita is $4,000 and $2,200 in Mongolia (Brunello et al.,
2004).Fishery
is not the main source of profit for the economy of this area.More
than 60% of the Baikal coastline is occupied by Buryatia, which is located in
the south-central part of Siberia. This republic is regarded as an important
agricultural zone and owns huge deposit of commercial minerals. Undoubtedly, extraction
of commercial minerals is a growing industry from year to year. However, this policy
has a negative environmental impact on Lake Baikal with respect to the future.Although
fishing plays a small role within the local economy, there is an interest in
this natural object which is increasing. The lake is also an attractive place
for tourism. Various excursions, diving, ski resorts, treatment on Lake Baikal
are included in the list of the most common activities. It cannot be denied
that economic indicators tend to improve due to popularity and attractiveness.Consequently, a demand arose for the development of the construction
sector. In Irkutsk, many hotels were built, and as a result, there was a need
to create new jobs. This aspect has a direct impact on the state of the
environment in the lake. The higher the interest of people towards this lake,
the higher the regional industry is developed. 1.2        
Anthropogenic impacts Although
the resources of Lake Baikal have undoubtedly been exploited over a long period
of time, recorded over-exploitation began at the end of the 19th century (Anson
MacKay, 2012). The
population of the southern shore of the lake began to increase when the
construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway took place from 1887 to 1916. Great impact
on the development of industrial activity and population growth in the vicinity
of Lake Baikal was during the Second World War. As a result, this affected the
growth of the level of chemical contamination. One should note here that the
number of ships that pollute the watershed has increased. Moreover, a huge
impact on Lake Baikal was achieved through the construction of a hydroelectric
power station in 1959 in Irkutsk.It
should be emphasized that Baikal’sk Pulp & Paper Mill and the Selenginsk Pulp
& Carton Mill at the Selenga River produce hundreds of thousands of ton of
bleached pulp per year. Also, the factories are responsible for discharging
pollutants such as sulfates and organic chlorine compounds into the lake.The
population growth and the industrial development have an impact on the environmental
health near Lake Baikal. The small settlements that lived along the Selenga
River grew, and the agricultural industry intensified. It is also noteworthy
that the mining industry and agricultural activities are also sources of toxic
compounds. 1.  
Conclusions

To conclude, Lake Baikal is the largest natural source
of fresh water on the Earth. Uniqueness is given to it by the diversity of the
plant world, more than half of which are endemic. This natural resource also
has a huge value in the lives of people living near the lake. However, as the
population increases in the territory of Lake Baikal, the problem of the safety
of this water body appears. With the development of infrastructure, there are
many factors that adversely affect the environment and water quality. We cannot
ignore the fact that human influence on Lake Baikal can further worsen. This must
be carefully controlled in order to maintain the environmental properties of
this unique lacustrine ecosystem and to preclude potentially devastating and
irreversible environmental alterations. Moreover, efforts should be made to implement
a long-term investigation and monitoring program that estimates environmental
impacts throughout the lake Baikal. It might also render assistance to resource
management decisions in preserving the world’s largest freshwater lake.