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Lake Baikal

Posted on 2 October 2015

Prof David Moon visits Lake Baikal, Siberia as part of Leverhulme International Network project

An interdisplinary group of academics from universities in the UK, USA and Russia, led by the University of York, visited Lake Baikal in July and August 2015 as part of a three-year project, funded by a Leverhulme International Network grant, to explore Russia’s environmental history and natural resources.

An extraordinary sunset over Lake Baikal - but heightened by the ever present forest fires (credit: Bryce Stewart)An extraordinary sunset over Lake Baikal - but heightened by the ever present forest fires (credit: Bryce Stewart)

Professor David Moon, the lead investigator from York’s History Department, said: “By bringing together colleagues from several countries and a range of disciplines that span the humanities, social and natural sciences, the project aims to present a more balanced view of Russia’s environmental history and conservation than the predominately negative stereotype that is commonly perceived in the West.”

Ecologists are warning the world’s deepest and oldest lake is at risk from climate change and faces a new threat from plans to build a dam.

Russia’s Lake Baikal, in eastern Siberia, holds one-fifth of all freshwater and is a global biodiversity hotspot.

Of its 2,500 known animal species, 75 per cent are endemic - unknown anywhere else. Of particular note are the 350 species of amphipod shrimps, most of them endemic and gigantic in size, and its iconic freshwater seal (nerpa).

Baikal also has enormous cultural significance for people of several faiths, including Buddhism and Shamanism, who live around its shores.

But environmentalists are warning this fragile paradise, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, is under threat with its clear waters warming much faster than the global average, with as yet unknown long-term effects on its ecology.