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      Sixty years of environmental change in the world's largest freshwater lake – Lake Baikal, Siberia


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          High-resolution data collected over the past 60 years by a single family of Siberian scientists on Lake Baikal reveal significant warming of surface waters and long-term changes in the basal food web of the world's largest, most ancient lake. Attaining depths over 1.6 km, Lake Baikal is the deepest and most voluminous of the world's great lakes. Increases in average water temperature (1.21 °C since 1946), chlorophyll a (300% since 1979), and an influential group of zooplankton grazers (335% increase in cladocerans since 1946) may have important implications for nutrient cycling and food web dynamics. Results from multivariate autoregressive (MAR) modeling suggest that cladocerans increased strongly in response to temperature but not to algal biomass, and cladocerans depressed some algal resources without observable fertilization effects. Changes in Lake Baikal are particularly significant as an integrated signal of long-term regional warming, because this lake is expected to be among those most resistant to climate change due to its tremendous volume. These findings highlight the importance of accessible, long-term monitoring data for understanding ecosystem response to large-scale stressors such as climate change.

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          Most cited references79

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          Increasing river discharge to the Arctic Ocean.

          Synthesis of river-monitoring data reveals that the average annual discharge of fresh water from the six largest Eurasian rivers to the Arctic Ocean increased by 7% from 1936 to 1999. The average annual rate of increase was 2.0 +/- 0.7 cubic kilometers per year. Consequently, average annual discharge from the six rivers is now about 128 cubic kilometers per year greater than it was when routine measurements of discharge began. Discharge was correlated with changes in both the North Atlantic Oscillation and global mean surface air temperature. The observed large-scale change in freshwater flux has potentially important implications for ocean circulation and climate.
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            Disappearing Arctic lakes.

            Historical archived satellite images were compared with contemporary satellite data to track ongoing changes in more than 10,000 large lakes in rapidly warming Siberia. A widespread decline in lake abundance and area has occurred since 1973, despite slight precipitation increases to the region. The spatial pattern of lake disappearance suggests (i) that thaw and "breaching" of permafrost is driving the observed losses, by enabling rapid lake draining into the subsurface; and (ii) a conceptual model in which high-latitude warming of permafrost triggers an initial but transitory phase of lake and wetland expansion, followed by their widespread disappearance.
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              Methane bubbling from Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming.

              Large uncertainties in the budget of atmospheric methane, an important greenhouse gas, limit the accuracy of climate change projections. Thaw lakes in North Siberia are known to emit methane, but the magnitude of these emissions remains uncertain because most methane is released through ebullition (bubbling), which is spatially and temporally variable. Here we report a new method of measuring ebullition and use it to quantify methane emissions from two thaw lakes in North Siberia. We show that ebullition accounts for 95 per cent of methane emissions from these lakes, and that methane flux from thaw lakes in our study region may be five times higher than previously estimated. Extrapolation of these fluxes indicates that thaw lakes in North Siberia emit 3.8 teragrams of methane per year, which increases present estimates of methane emissions from northern wetlands (< 6-40 teragrams per year; refs 1, 2, 4-6) by between 10 and 63 per cent. We find that thawing permafrost along lake margins accounts for most of the methane released from the lakes, and estimate that an expansion of thaw lakes between 1974 and 2000, which was concurrent with regional warming, increased methane emissions in our study region by 58 per cent. Furthermore, the Pleistocene age (35,260-42,900 years) of methane emitted from hotspots along thawing lake margins indicates that this positive feedback to climate warming has led to the release of old carbon stocks previously stored in permafrost.

                Author and article information

                Glob Chang Biol
                Glob Chang Biol
                Global Change Biology
                Blackwell Publishing Ltd
                August 2008
                : 14
                : 8
                : 1947-1958
                [* ]National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis, University of California – Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA
                []Scientific Research Institute of Biology, Irkutsk State University Irkutsk 664003, Russia
                []Department of Biological Sciences, Wellesley College Wellesley, MA 02481, USA
                [§ ]Northwest Fisheries Science Center NOAA Fisheries, Seattle, WA 98112, USA
                []Departments of Statistics and Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho Moscow, ID 83844, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Stephanie E. Hampton, tel. +1 805 892 2505, fax +1 805 892 2510, e-mail: hampton@ 123456nceas.ucsb.edu

                Present address: Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, 113 Harbor Way, Suite 150, Santa Barbara, CA 93109, USA.

                Journal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing

                Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5, which does not permit commercial exploitation.

                : 12 September 2007
                : 18 January 2008
                : 25 January 2008
                Original Articles

                daphnia,global warming,great lakes,high-latitude,long-term ecological research,plankton,russia,subarctic,time series,trophic structure


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