Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake in the world (by volume) and the world's deepest lake. Somewhat crescent shaped, it is in the southern Siberia area of Russia. In 1996 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.




Lake Baikal is located in south-central Russia near the Mongolian border. The largest nearby city is Irkutsk. Lake Baikal has historically played a large role in the Russian imagination. It represents the unspoiled beauty of Russia and is sometimes referred to as the Sacred Sea. Lake Baikal plays a central part in many local creation myths and appears throughout Russian folklore, according to Baikal Nature. Lake Baikal attracts more than 500,000 tourists a year, according to the Siberian Times.


Lake Baikal ecosystem

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Commission, Lake Baikal is sometimes called the "Galapagos of Russia" because of its exceptional biodiversity and importance to evolutionary science. The age, isolation and deep oxygenated water of Lake Baikal have resulted in one of the world's richest freshwater ecosystems.
About 80 percent of the more than 3,700 species found at Lake Baikal are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth. Probably the most famous of these species is the nerpa, the world's only exclusively freshwater seal. Scientists are unsure how the nerpa came to Lake Baikal and evolved, but they suspect the seals might have swum down a prehistoric river from the Arctic, according to LakeBaikal.org. Other endemic species include the oily, scaleless golomyanka fish and the omul, a white fish that is one of Lake Baikal's most famous dishes. 
Lake Baikal has successfully met environmental challenges in the past. In 2006, activists were able to get the government to completely reroute an oil pipeline. "It would have crossed into the lake's watershed in the north and come within 800 meters of the lake. It would have had devastating impacts," Castner said. 

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