Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal
File:Olkhon Island and Lake Baikal.jpg
File:Karte baikal2.png
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Lake typeContinental rift lake
Primary inflowsSelenge, Barguzin, Upper Angara
Primary outflowsAngara
Catchment area560,000 km2 (216,000 sq mi)
Basin countriesRussia and Mongolia
Max. length636 km (395 mi)
Max. width79 km (49 mi)
Surface area31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi)[1]
Average depth744.4 m (2,442 ft)[1]
Max. depth1,642 m (5,387 ft)[1]
Water volume23,615.39 km3 (5,700 cu mi)[1]
Residence time330 years[2]
Shore length12,100 km (1,300 mi)
Surface elevation455.5 m (1,494 ft)
Islands27 (Olkhon)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

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Lake Baikal is a huge lake in Siberia, Russia. It is the biggest fresh water reservoir in the world. The lake is near Irkutsk.

Baikal is about 636 kilometres (395 mi) long. It is 20 to 80 kilometres (12 to 50 mi) wide. At its deepest point, it is 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) deep. With this depth it is the deepest lake on Earth.[3][4] The lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It holds about 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water,[5]

The lake has fish that exist only here and nowhere else. It is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two-thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world.[6]


The Yenisei River basin, which includes Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal fills an ancient rift valley, just as Lake Tanganyika does in East Africa.

At the Baikal Rift Zone, the Earth's crust pulls apart.[7] It is the deepest lake in the world at 1,642 m (5,387 ft). The bottom of the lake is 1,186.5 m (3,893 ft) below sea level, but below this lies some 7 km (4.3 mi) of sediment. This means the rift floor is 8–11 km (5.0–6.8 mi) below the surface: the deepest continental rift on Earth.[7]

In geological terms, the rift is young and active – it widens about two cm per year. The fault zone is also seismically active; there are hot springs in the area and notable earthquakes every few years.

Baikal's age is 25–30 million years: it is one of the oldest lakes. It is unique among large, high-latitude lakes, because its sediments have not been scoured by overriding continental ice sheets. U.S. and Russian studies of core sediment in the 1990s gave a detailed record of climatic variation over the past 250,000 years. Longer and deeper sediment cores are expected soon. Lake Baikal is the only confined freshwater lake in which evidence of gas hydrates exists.[8][9][10]

The lake is completely surrounded by mountains. The Baikal Mountains on the north shore and the taiga are protected as a national park. It has 27 islands; the largest, Olkhon, is 72 km (45 mi) long and is the third-largest lake-bound island in the world. The lake is fed by as many as 330 inflowing rivers.[5] It is drained through a single outlet, the Angara River.

Despite its great depth, the lake's waters are well-mixed and well-oxygenated throughout the water column, compared to the stratification that occurs in such bodies of water as Lake Tanganyika and the Black Sea.


File:Omul Fish.jpg
Omul Fish on Listyanka market

Lake Baikal has over 1000 species of plants[11] and 1550 species and varieties of animals. Over 60% of animals are endemic; that means of 52 species of fish 27 are endemic.

The omul fish (Coregonus autumnalis migratorius) is local to Lake Baikal. It is fished, smoked, and sold on all markets around the lake. For many travellers on the Trans-Siberian railway, purchasing smoked omul is one of the highlights of the long journey.

Baikal also hosts a species of seals, Baikal seal or nerpa.

Bears and deer can be watched and hunted by Baikal coasts.


In 1986, Baikalskyi[12] and Barguzinskyi[13] became Biosphere Reserves. The ecosystems are part of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme.

Related pages


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "A new bathymetric map of Lake Baikal. MORPHOMETRIC DATA. INTAS Project 99-1669.Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium; Consolidated Research Group on Marine Geosciences (CRG-MG), University of Barcelona, Spain; Limnological Institute of the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russian Federation; State Science Research Navigation-Hydrographic Institute of the Ministry of Defense, St.Petersburg, Russian Federation". Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  2. M.A. Grachev. "On the present state of the ecological system of lake Baikal". Lymnological Institute, Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  3. "About Lake Baikal=--- details from the Encyclopedia". Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  4. "Lake Baikal - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Lake Baikal: the great blue eye of Siberia". CNN. Archived from the original on 11 October 2006. Retrieved 21 October 2006.
  6. "Russia". Britannica Student Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "The oddities of Lake Baikal". Alaska Science Forum. Retrieved 7 January 2007.
  8. Kuzmin M.I. et al 1998. First find of gas hydrates in sediments of Lake Baikal. Doklady Adademii Nauk, 362: 541–543 (in Russian).
  9. Vanneste M. et al (2001). "Multi-frequency seismic study of gas hydrate-bearing sediments in Lake Baikal, Siberia". Marine Geology 172 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1016/S0025-3227(00)00117-1. 
  10. Van Rensbergen P. et al (2002). "Sublacustrine mud volcanoes and methane seeps caused by dissociation of gas hydrates in Lake Baikal". Geology 30 (7): 631–634. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(2002)030<0631:SMVAMS>2.0.CO;2. 
  11. "WWW Irkutsk: Animals and fishes of Lake Baikal". Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  12. World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), "Baikalskyi"; retrieved 2012-7-18.
  13. WNBR, "Barguzinskyi"; retrieved 2012-7-18.

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