Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water. Somewhat crescent shaped, it is in the southern Siberia area of Russia. In 1996 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With a maximum depth of 1,642 m Baikal is the world’s deepest lake. It is considered among the world’s clearest lakes and is considered the world’s oldest lake— at 25 million years. It is the seventh-largest lake in the world by surface area.
Lake Baikal is rich in biodiversity. It is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and 2,500 species of animals based on current knowledge. Surrounded by mile-high snowcapped mountains, the lake still offers vistas of unmatched beauty. The mountains are still a haven for wild animals, and the small villages are still outposts of tranquillity and self-reliance in the remote Siberian taiga, as the forest is called.
Important Facts of Lake Baikal
- Lake Baikal is currently a natural reservoir and a UNESCO world heritage site. It around 20% of the world’s unfrozen freshwater.
- The lake is located near the Russian city of Irkutsk, one of the largest cities in Siberia with about half a million population.
- Lake Baikal’s rich and unique biodiversity includes species like the Baikal seal, also known as “nerpa.” It’s the only mammal indigenous to Lake Baikal.
- Lake Baikal is the only very deep lake to have oxygenated water at its lowest depths, like the ocean.
- The Selenga River is the largest source of water coming into Lake. Flowing north from Mongolia, it contributes nearly 50 percent of the lake’s water.
- The average air temperature in winter is minus 6 F (minus 21 C). Despite its size, Lake Baikal freezes over in the winter and usually melts in May or June.
- The Lake is in a rift valley and up to 2,000 earthquake tremors are detected each year. The earthquakes deepen the lake and increase its size.
- About 80 percent of the more than 3,700 species found at Lake Baikal are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth.
- There are dozens of tree species, including cedar, fir, and spruce, growing in the Lake Baikal area. Some of the trees are up to 800 years old.