Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations because of its exceptional endemic biodiversity. Its ecological and environmental health is now under threat from a government funding cut of almost 30% to the lake's long-term monitoring programme.
Biologists at Irkutsk State University have been sampling water temperature, transparency, and plankton abundance and species composition at weekly intervals, year-round, since 1945. Lake Baikal remained largely pristine in the twentieth century, but its ecosystems are changing fast as surface waters warm and winter ice cover lessens (405–417; 2009 and et al. Bioscience 59, 1947–1958; 2008). et al. Glob. Change Biol. 14,
In the lake's coastal zone, for example, excessive nutrients from industrial and household pollution are causing mass spread of the green alga Spirogyra and die-off of endemic sponges in nearshore waters (487–497; 2016). et al. J. Great Lakes Res. 42,
Long-term monitoring of the health of the world's deepest lake is crucial. The cost of sustaining it (less than US$70,000 a year) is vanishingly small relative to the ecological and economic value of this global resource.