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World's largest lake sheds light on ecosystem responses to climate variability
Date:2/17/2011

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) Siberia's Lake Baikal, the world's oldest, deepest, and largest freshwater lake, has provided scientists with insight into the ways that climate change affects water temperature, which in turn affects life in the lake. The study is published in the journal PLoS ONE today.

"Lake Baikal has the greatest biodiversity of any lake in the world," explained co-author Stephanie Hampton, deputy director of UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS). "And, thanks to the dedication of three generations of a family of Russian scientists, we have remarkable data on climate and lake temperature."

Beginning in the 1940's, Russian scientist Mikhail Kozhov took frequent and detailed measurements of the lake's temperature. His descendants continued the practice, including his granddaughter, Lyubov Izmest'eva at Irkutsk State University. She is a co-author of the study and a core member of the NCEAS team now exploring this treasure trove of scientific and historical records.

First author Steve Katz, of NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, explained that the research team discovered many climate variability signals, called teleconnections, in the data. For example, changes in Lake Baikal water temperature correlate with monthly variability in El Nio indices, reflecting sea surface temperatures over the Pacific Ocean tens of thousands of kilometers away. At the same time, Lake Baikal's temperatures are influenced by strong interactions with Pacific Ocean pressure fields described by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

"Teasing these multiple signals apart in this study illuminated both the methods by which we can detect these overlapping sources of climate variability, and the role of jet stream variability in affecting the local ecosystem," said Katz.

Hampton added: "This work is important because we need to go beyond detecting past climate variation. We als
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Contact: Gail Gallessich
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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