Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Monitoring: safeguarding the world's largest lake

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 (M. V. Moore et al. Bioscience 59, 405–417; 2009 and S. E. Hampton et al. Glob. Change Biol. 14, 1947–1958; 2008).

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 (O. A. Timoshkin et al. J. Great Lakes Res. 42, 487–497; 2016).

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.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Maxim A. Timofeyev.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Timofeyev, M. Monitoring: safeguarding the world's largest lake. Nature 538, 41 (2016).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing