G E N E R A L
I N F O
What is the surface area of Lake
It is 31,500 square kilometers and equal to the area of such
countries as Belgium, Netherlands or Denmark. By its surface
area Baikal ranks eighth among world's largest lakes.
What is the water mass volume of
The total water volume on the Earth is about 1406 mln. cubic
kilometers. Of them lakes and rivers contain 0.231 mln. cubic
km. The volume of baikalian water mass is about 23.000 cubic
kilometers. It is greater than the water volume contained
in all five taken together great Lakes in North america (
Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erei, Ontario), in the Baltic,
by 23 times greater than in Ladoga Lake. Lake Baikal contains
one-fifth of the world's surface water resources (except ice
of antarctica, green land and other glaciers), and four-fifth
of fresh waters of Russia.
What does the word Baikal mean?
The word Baikal is derived from the Turkish Bai-Kul, which
means "a rich lake" (compare: Issyk-Kul - a warm
lake, Kara-kul - a black lake). Some authors believe this
word to come from the Mongolian Baigal (rich fire) or Baigal-Dalai
What is the greatest and average
depth in Baikal ?
Baikal is the deepest lake on the Earth. Its average depth
is about 730 m. For the first time it was exactly calculated
by g. Yu. Vereshagin in the 30's. The deepest known depth
of Baikal (and lakes of the world) is 1637 m.
Where does the Baikal coastline lie?
The coastline is 456 m above ocean level. The coastline is
a boundary between land and water surfaces. On the map it
is drawn along the line of an average little water level.
The real boundary between land and lake - the edge line -
is constantly changing due to water fluctuations.
How has the Baikal level changed
after the construction of the Irkutsk hydropower station dam?
The level has risen by 1 m. The surface area of the lake has
increased by 500 square km. It has resulted in serious ecological
How many tributaries does Baikal
336 rivers and rivulets (constant watercourse).
How old is Baikal?
It is 20-25 mln. years old. But a modern shape Baikal acquired
relatively recently, may be some million years ago.
Where are maximum depths located
By the eastern shore of the Olkhon Island between Izhimey
and Khara-Khushun capes 8-12 km to the east from the shore
(depth 1637). In the southern trough of Baikal the maximum
depth (1432 m) is located between the rivers Pereemnaya and
Mishikha, in the northern trough - 890 m between the Elokhin
and Pokoiniki capes.
Are there submerged ranges in Baikal?
Most expressive is the akademichesky Range, stretching
from the Olkhon Island towards the Ushkany Islands. Its stretch
is about 100 km, maximum height over the bottom of Baikal
is about 1848 m.
Who controls the Baikal ecosystem
Enviromental Protection Service and Ministry of National Health
should assess the effects of pollution on Baikal. But this
state system of control can not solve all problems. That is
why a great role is played by scientific-research institutions,
having at their disposal highly-qualified specialists and
high quality equipment. For example, for 50 years the Scientific-Research
Institute of Biology of the Irkutsk State University has been
making every ten-days observations on all components of the
Baikal biota at the Baikalian biological station in the Bolshyie
Koty settlement, on the angara biostation - observations on
the angara reservoir biota.
What are the results of ecological
monitoring of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Plant impact on
the Baikal ecosystem?
Monitoring is being conducted by the Scientific-Research Institute
of Biology of the Irkutsk State University. Observations in
the place of supposed waste water discharge were started by
M. M. Kozhov as early as in 1961. It was established that
in the place of discharges of industrial purified and domestic
waste waters, on the bottom of the lake there occurred a dead
spot, where only bacteria live. Outside the dead spot a zone
was formed, where a radical restructure of communities had
taken place. The area of the zone is more than 30 square km.
B A I K A L W A T E R
What is the water quality in Baikal?
The water is deliciously tasty and pure as a spring. and this
notwithstanding the problems posed by the cellulose industry.
Baikal has powerful defensive mechanisms of self-purification.
How much are the waters of Baikal
The total mineralization of the Baikal waters is 120 mg/l.
The waters of Baikal belong to poorly mineralized soft waters.
On average the share of hydrocarbonate calcium is about 84
%, chlorides and sulphates - 7 %, alkaline metalls - 9 %.
The chemical composition of water is comparatively homogeneous
due to intensive mixing up.
How many salts and solid compounds
do the Baikal tributaries carry a year?
The main tributaries carry 6013 thous. tons of salts and 7809
thous. tons of dissolved compounds. Besides, 1200 thous. tons
of different compounds come into Baikal from the atmosphere.
Why is the Baikal water fresh?
Baikal as a waterbody is filled up with surface waters. Rivers
have no time to be saturated with salts, since crystalline
rocks in their beds are difficult to dissolve, hence, they
carry the water of poor mineralization into Baikal. The water
has very high drinking qualities.
Can the baikalian water be produced
May be it is possible by the chemical sets of elements, but
as for its molecular structure and isotope composition it
How often does the water exchange
occur in Baikal?
On average the water exchange occurs during 383 years.
What is the age of the Baikal water?
Indirect studies and isotope analyses determine the maximum
age of the Baikal water approximately as 400 years old.
Why is the Baikal water so transparent?
The Baikal water contains small amounts of dissolved and suspended
substances, that is why, its transparency exceeds all lacustrine
waterbodies in the world and is almost equal to transparency
of ocean waters.
How long could people live having
only one water source - Baikal?
Taking into account modern optimal need in water, equal to
500 l of water per individual a day, people of the Earth could
live on the Baikal water for about 40 years.
Where is the most transparent water
In regions with greatest depths in the southern and middle
troughs. Secchi disk measurements have shown 40 m on the surface
(standard - the Sargasso sea: 65 m.). Studies at the depth
from 250 m determined transparency not less than in the Sargasso
To what depth does light penetrate
the thickness of Baikal?
On space photoes the bottom relief is seen to the depth of
500 m. absolute measurements record the disappearance of day
light at the depth of 1500 m. Photosynthesis occurs to the
depth of 70 m.
What is the impact of the Baikalsk
Pulp and Paper Plant on the water quality?
In the water thickness microbiological destructive processes
became more active. For instance, the number of bacteria,
growing on fish-peptone agar, increased by several ten times,
there appeared many putrefactive bacteria. By the number of
these bacteria the zone of waste water impact is more dictinctly
defined. In the impact zone in some periods all 100% of specimens
of the endemic planktonic species - Epishura - are dead. In
this zone there are many unusual for Baikal species, coming
into the lake from treatment facilities. The belt of polluted
waters is regularly and constantly recorded at a distance
of 7-10 km from the shore. Currents along the coast carry
polluted waters far in the direction of the northern part
Is there any need to use autonomous
diving apparatuses to study Baikal?
autonomous diving apparatuses "Pisces" were first
brought to Baikal by the Institute of Oceanology of the academy
of Sciences in 1977.
The main task was geological and biological studies of the
When the apparatuses were based on the Baikalian Biological
station of the Scientific-Research Institute of Biology of
Irkutsk State University, scientists of this institute participated
in the work of "Pisces". One of the participants
of diving prof. O. M. Kozhova in her account shares her impressions:
"I was much surprised that all I knew about Baikal from
books, my own experience, analysis of hydrobiological sampling
appeared to me as a film. Sinking to the bottom we passed
three vertical zones. The upper zone is autotrophic dominated
by algae, and we saw through port-holes dazzling green water.
Deeper than 50-70 m the water colour changed sharply to grey-whitish
. This is a zone with dominant zooplankton, among which you
can see big specimens of pelagic amphipoda - macrohectopus-
and fish - golomyanka. Deeper 150 m the water was crystal
clear. It seemed as you were on land. Nearer to the bottom
, i.e. at a depth of about 500 m there appeared again alive
organisms, but these were species leading a pre-bottom way
of life - gammarids and goby. The bottom proper in the main
trough of Baikal is filled up with loose suspended material.
Small elevations on it are habitats of worms - oligochaetes.
Now here, now there is seen soaring like parachutes in the
air the fish - golomyanka. Rising up the trough slope of the
lake, along narrow stony canyons, we saw how diverse is the
morphology and colouring of gammarids. gammarids are lords
of this zone - the batial of Baikal, kingly lords"
B A I K A L S A N I M A L S
A N D P L A N T S
How many species of animals and
plants are known in Baikal at the present time?
The Baikal world is extremely diverse. Now Baikal is known
to have 1550 species and varieties of animals and 1085 species
of plant organisms.
What are organisms inhabiting Baikal
By deep endemism (uniqueness). In the open part of the lake
the fauna by 60% is endemic. all in all, 11 families and subfamilies,
96 genera, uniting about 1000 species are endemic to Baikal.
Are there temperature barriers for
aquatic organisms in Baikal?
Baikalian organisms are adapted to live in a very narrow temperature
range. Endemic species of the golomyanka fish, for example,
live in water with temperatures from + 3,5 to +10. With its
increase higher than +10 these organisms first get inhibited,
then at +12 they perish. at the same time the golomyanka and
epishura are practically unresponsive to pressure changes
(the golomyanka can migrate from the greatest depths and to
How many endemic species of fish
are there in Baikal?
Out of 52 species of baikalian fish 27 species are endemic.
What is a plant belt of Baikal?
The plant belt of the Baikal coastline is formed by bottom
algae, not by higher plants as in other lakes. There are many
endemics among bottom algae. In their growths there live many
aquatic invertebrates. also you can see there baikalian sponges
- animals of bright green colour due to symbiosis with green
What is a sub-ice "water bloom"
in Baikal ?
Baikalian endemic algae living in the water thickness - diatom,
peridinean - are actively developing under ice. In some rich-crop
years their biomass can reach 100 g/km2 in the upper water
Where is most diverse life in Baikal?
On the bottom. Most diverse communities of inverterbrates
populate the bottom of Baikal from the water edge to maximum
depths. These communities are dominated by gammarids, oligochaetes,
mollusks, larvae of aquatic insects.
What is the main consumer of planktonic
algae in Baikal?
It is Epishura baikalensis, living in the water thickness.
The pelagic amphipoda macrohectopus is also found there. It,
in its turn, (together with goby fish - golomyanka and sculpins)
- is the main diet of the baikalian nerpa (seal).
What is the most popular fish in
The omul Coregonus autumnalis migratorius. Omul feeds upon
zoop - lankton, bottom gammarids, larvae of insects and the
young of fish. Omul spawns in the tributaries of Baikal in
autumn. Maximum catches (the 40's) were 60-80 thous. tons.
The omul population is subject to fluctuations due to intensive
fishing and seasonal conditions of spawning.
Where did omul penetrate into Baikal
Some scientists believe that omul penetrated into Baikal from
pre-estuary parts of the rivers, flowing into the arctic ocean,
particularly through the Yenisei and angara. Others think
that ancestors of all sig fish are pelagic sig fish of the
continental waterbodies of Siberia. It is supposed that omul
appeared in Baikal comparatively recently, may be in the glacial
or pos-glacial periods. In Baikal it underwent considerable
changes and can be considered an endemic at a sub-species
What populations of omul are there
In Baikal there are 4 populations of omul: the Selenga, the
Chivyrkui, the North-Baikalian and the Posolsky. Some scientists
single out the Barguzin population which at the present time
has practically perished due to heavy pollution of the river
Barguzin. The Posolsky population is artificially bred from
roe incubated in special apparatuses. So, there are only 3
populations of omul in Baikal, all of them are rather inactive.
Are there the sturgeon acipenser
baeri in Baikal ?
The sturgeon acipenser baeri inhabits a shallow zone of the
Baikal pre-estuary sites. It spawns in large tributaries:
the Selenga and Ust-Barguzin, It grows slowly, reaching maturity
in the 18th to 20th year. In the XXth century the sturgeon's
catch was rather considerable. at the present time its resources
are nearly exhausted due to uncontrolled fishing of the young
and spawning fish.
What are the most peculiar fish
in Baikal ?
It is goby fish:
The small golomyanka Comephorus dybowskii - is a representative
of the endemic family Comephoridae, a pelagic species, making
diurnal vertical migrations. The species populates the whole
water layer up to the 1600 m depths. It feeds upon pelagic
crayfish - epishura and macrohectopus,- and also upon its
own fry and the fry of the big golomyanka. a well developed
lateral line permits it to hunt successfully at great depths.
The small golomyanka spawns at the age of 2-3 years old, giving
birth to live larvae, which develop in the body of a female
during 90-100 days. Its biomass is enormous - about 100 thous.
tons. It is an essential component of the diet for the seal
(nerpa) and omul. This fish is of no commercial importance
for it does not form shoals accessible to catching.
The sculpin Cottocomephorus grewingki is a small pelagic fish
(about 10 cm long), spread to the 250 m depths. It feeds upon
plankton, spawns under stones in the coastal zone at the age
of 2-3 years old. The sculpin forms 3 spawning shoals: the
May, the august and the March, has a complicated territorial
behaviour. The young of the sculpin form coastal accumulations
which serve as food for omul and other fish. as studies of
the scientists of the Scientific-Research Institute of Biology
of the Irkutsk State University have shown, the sculpin's
fry have an inborn defensive response to smell of predatory
What is the total weght of fish in Baikal?
About 230 thous. tons, including about 60 thous. tons of commercial
Are there mammals in Baikal?
The sole representative of mammals is the seal or nerpa. according
to the classification the baikalian nerpa belongs to the family
of seals, the genus Pusa.
How did nerpa appear in Baikal?
It is thought that nerpa penetrated into Baikal from the arctic
ocean through the angara and Yenisei rivers in the glacial
epoch. But there is no evidence for it as yet.
How many seals are there in Baikal?
About 60 thous.
What is the age limit of nerpa?
56 years for females and 53 for males.
How did the construction of the
Irkutsk hydropower station affect the inhabitants of Baikal?
It affected them considerably. For instance, in the 50-60's
there was a commercial catch of sculpin, but due to the rise
of the Baikal level after the construction of the Irkutsk
hydropower station dam, its numbers considerably decreased.
The level rise by 1 m resulted in changing the conditions
of reproduction of this species. Decrease of the sculpin numbers
posed serious problems as to food for omul which caused, in
its turn, the reduction in the omul numbers. By the present
time the sculpin numbers are increasing, but have not reached
the 50's level yet.
What are sizes of nerpa?
Average weight is about 50 kg, maximum weight of males - 130-150
kg 1.7-1.8 m long; of males about 110 kg, 1.3-1.6 m long.
What animals inhabit the Baikal
Brown bear. It often occurs only in the Khamar-Daban, Baikalsk,
Barguzin ranges. May be observed and hunted.
Noble deer. around Baikal there is its subspecies Manchurian
deer. Noble deer is abundant only in the Khamar-Daban range
and along the slopes of the western coast of Baikal. May be
observed and hunted.
Forest northern deer. It is often met on elevations of the
Baikalsk and Barguzin ranges may be observed and hunted.
Musk deer. It is the smallest deer, the sole representative
of the family Moschidae in Russia. It is very abundant in
the Khamar-Daban Range, in other mountainous regions is scarce.
The number of game mammals has dramatically decreased lately
due to uncontrolled hunting.
What is the most famous species
of game animals in the Pribaikalye taiga?
The sable Martes zibellina L. It is abundant only in dark-coniferous
forests of the Baikalsk and Barguzin ranges. To protect the
sable the Barguzin Nature Reserve was founded.
What birds are accessible to hunting and
Common Capercaillie occurs - on the western coast in coniferous
and deciduous forests (observation and hunting only on "courtship
Stone Capercaillie - in the forests of the eastern coast.
Where do ducks occur on Baikal?
Of birds whose life is connected with water, most abundant
are ducks. Their nesting grounds are river mouths and other
swampy parts of the coasts. Here they stay during their migrations.
Ducks are popular objects for hunting on Baikal. One of the
interesting species is gray duck, which occur on swampy shores
of waterbodies in forest-steppe zones.
From far away one can see habitats of grey herons on willow
branches in the river Selenga delta. Now the number of herons
here contunues to grow. The reason for, probably, lies in
the appearance of a new kind of food for these fish-eating
birds. amur sleeper which has high numbers during last 10
years happened to come into the Selenga river. and herons
prefer to feed on it, but not on pike and crucian, as it was
Are there many gulls on Baikal?
Most abundany of gulls on Baikal is the black-headed gull,
which populate swampy shores of waterbodies. about 20 thous.
birds of this species nest there. Black-headed gulls ringed
in summer on Baikal, were found in winter in Western Europe,
China and Vietnam. gull birds occur not only in rocky shores
of the lake, but also on swamps of the coast. The most simple
species of terns found in Siberia is common terns. It nests
on sandy and stony beaches and grassy islets.
How are Baikalian birds studied?
Gulls are the main objects of ornithological studies. at the
Scientific-Research Institute of Biology of Irkutsk State
University for 25 years about 100 thous. gulls have been ringed,
the majority of them (67 thous.) are young herring gulls.
This is the biggest species of gulls occurring on Baikal.
It feeds not only on fish, but other various food. Wintering
grounds of these species are in Eastern asia.
At what altitude does the forest
boundary on the mountains surrounding Baikal lie?
The boundary lies at an altitude from 1500 to 1800 and more
m above sea level.
What is the limit age of trees on
the Baikal coast?
There were encountered the cedar at the age of 550 years old
and larch - 530 years old. The cedar at this age continued
A N G A R A R I V E R
How much water does the angara river
carry out of Baikal per year?
On average - about 60 cubic km.
What is maximum breadth and depth
of the angara river at its source?
Its breadth is about 1 km. Maximum depth - 4-6 m. The cliff
"Shaman Stone" is never covered by water in the
middle of the river bed at the source.
What is the velocity of the river
current at the source?
Along the river fairway from 4 to 8 km/hr (1-2 m/s). at a
high level of Baikal the velocity used to be greater.
What is the difference between the
height above sea level at the angara source and that in its
The angara source is located at the Baikal level, that is,
at an altitude of 456 m above sea level, at the point of confluence
into Yenisei at an altitude of 76 m above sea level, i.e.
the difference is 380 m.
What about the rivers angara and
Yenisei? - Does the angara river flow into the Yenisei or
the Yenisei flows into the angara?
The angara river at the point of confluence into the Yenisei
carries 120 cubic km of water per year, and the Yenisei only
100 cubic km by the angara mouth. But geomorphologically and
historically the Yenisei is a principal river, and the angara
is only one of its largest tributaries.
How did hydropower station dams
affect the angara water quality?
The river angara, its fauna, the main part of which contained
endemic baikalian species, have dramatically changed. The
major factors are: sharp retarding of the current and pollution,
coming from industrial centres - Irkutsk, angarsk, Usolye-
Sibirsk, Bratsk, Ust-Ilimsk - where different industries are
developed, including the paper and pulp industry, which is
poisoning greatly the angara waters. The angara fauna has
become much poorer, since many baikalian endemics were replaced
by some species widely spread in eutrophic lakes. In the water
thickness of the reservoir there occurred much zooplankton,
primarily Daphnia, phytoplankton biomass considerably increased,
there appeared "in mass" blue-green algae. Water
quality continued to be degraded.
How did the construction of dams
affect fish in the angara reservoirs?
Instead of river species - inhabitants of pure rivers - reservoirs
become dominated by species typical of lakes - roach, perch,
pike. To improve fishery in the Bratsk reservoir baikalian
omul and bream were introduced there.
Which of the angara reservoirs is
as is shown by studies of the Scientific-Research Institute
of Biology of Irkutsk State University, among the reservoirs
on the angara - Irkutsk, Bratsk, Ust-Ilimsk - most pure is
the Irkutsk Reservoir, starting by Lake Baikal, at the angara
source. Heavily polluted is the Ust-Ilimsk Reservoir, where
poisoning substances coming into the river are accumulated.
Waste waters from the Bratsk Timber Industry Complex, coming
into the river Vikhorevaya, which flows into the Ust-Ilimsk
Reservoir, are doing irreparable damage to the quality of