Changing nutrient cycling in Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest lake

G.E.A. Swann (Corresponding author), V.N. Panizzo (Corresponding author), S. Piccolroaz, V. Pashley, M.S.A. Horstwood, S. Roberts, E. Vologina, N. Piotrowska, M. Sturm, A. Zhdanov, N. Granin, C. Norman, S. McGowan, A.W. Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Lake Baikal, lying in a rift zone in southeastern Siberia, is the world’s oldest, deepest, and most voluminous lake that began to form over 30 million years ago. Cited as the “most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem” and designated a World Heritage Site in 1996 due to its high level of endemicity, the lake and its ecosystem have become increasingly threatened by both climate change and anthropogenic disturbance. Here, we present a record of nutrient cycling in the lake, derived from the silicon isotope composition of diatoms, which dominate aquatic primary productivity. Using historical records from the region, we assess the extent to which natural and anthropogenic factors have altered biogeochemical cycling in the lake over the last 2,000 y. We show that rates of nutrient supply from deep waters to the photic zone have dramatically increased since the mid-19th century in response to changing wind dynamics, reduced ice cover, and their associated impact on limnological processes in the lake. With stressors linked to untreated sewage and catchment development also now impacting the near-shore region of Lake Baikal, the resilience of the lake’s highly endemic ecosystem to ongoing and future disturbance is increasingly uncertain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27211-27217
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate
  • Ecosystem
  • Endemic
  • Limnology
  • Siberia


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