Scientists consider that Baikal fauna is the oldest one, including maritime and limnetic species of specific zoogeographic objects. According to Limnological Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences data, 2,630 species and types of plants and living creatures inhabit in Baikal, and 2/3 of them are endemics. Such a diversity is explained with heightened amount of oxygen in water.
The smallest living creatures of Baikal are protozoa. They are represented by unicellular organisms, some of which can feed on bacteria and microalgae, while the others are predators.
There are a lot of infinitesimal crustaceans. The most famous type of them and the most important link in the food chain is Epischurabaikalensis. It is endemic to Lake Baikal and the dominating zooplanktonspecies there, making up 80 % of total biomass. This copepods is a small, 1-1.5mm length, Inhabited in water,Epischurabaikalensis is a natural water purifying filter. Scientists counted up to 3 million crustaceans per square meter of Baikal water. Such an amount is capable of cleaning the upper 50-meter layer of water three times a year from bacteria and algae residues. Another water cleaner, crustaceanGammaruslacustris (up to 3 cm length),destroys any waterpollution such as insects, dead fish, and even animals.
The most exotic animals of the lake, pores or sponges, are spreadon stony grounds of Baikal. They are colonies of very small invertebrates, cohabiting with microalgae, thanks to which the sponges are painted into various shades of green.
The bottom of the Baikal gulfs and coastal shallow waters are inhabited by insect larvae, including more than 50 species of caddis flies. We can see a lot of living beings crawlingon the ice to the shore in the sunny days of middle May. Under the influence of sunlight, ice collapses and insects crawl out of cracks to the surface. Theynamed “lipachan”. Also we can see transformation of pupae into adult insects, and it’s an amazing sight. A huge number of black butterflies fly everywhere within 30m of the coast. Trees and stonesare covered with butterflies. After mating insects die, in the second half of June, a three-centimeter layer of dead insects accumulates in the surf strip. They become food for animals and fish. During the spring &summer period, there are several waves of the appearance of caddis flies.
Nerpa,the Baikal freshwater seal,is the only mammal here. It is still a riddle - how did nerpa come to Baikal. One version is that nerpa came into Baikal from the Arctic Ocean through the system of the Yenisei-Angara Rivers in the glacial period, together with Baikal omul’ (fresh-water herring).Another version is thatnerpa appeared as a species in the freshwater of Eurasia, and then settled in the Caspian Sea, in the Arctic Ocean and in the Lake Baikal. Seals live up to 56 years. They can be 1.6-1.7m length and 150kg weight. In March, females give birth to one baby (belyok), which is called "Kumutkan" by Evenks. Fishes-golomyanka and Baikal goby are food for seals. Nerpa dive for food into a depth of 200 meters and remains underwater for 20-25 minutes. Seals are inhabited all over the lake, especially in the northen part and in the middle of the lake. Anyone can find nerpas near Ushkan’yi islands at the territory of national park “Zabaikal’sky”. There are approximately 60,000 seals in Baikal. When there is no ice on the lake, the nerpa rests on rocky shores, in winter it often lies on the ice near the outlets, which it makes herself.
Nerpa is very curious, playfull, but rather cautious. She likes to watch the ships and ducks under water, if it is dangerous.
Nerpa is called the symbol of Baikal, the same as the famous Baikal omul’, its image is often used on emblems. It is an interesting object for photographers. So,excursions to Ushkan’yi islands, where is a lot of Nerpas, are very popular among tourists.
The diversity of landscapes and the heterogeneity of the Baikal coastal climate are the causes of the species richness of the regionfauna, which is unique for Eastern Siberia. There are 236 birdsspecies on Baikal. At the end of summer and autumn, over 30 species of migratory waders occur near the shores of Baikal. A lot of birds are found in the deltas of rivers and shallow bays. Habitats of migratory and nesting in these parts of waterfowl, mainly duck (mallard, ogarya, crouchia)are associated directly with the water area of Baikal;less often you can meet geese, swan-swanson the shores of Baikal. Also you can find gray heron and black-throated loon. Baikal is very common for the silver gull; flocks of these birds settle in large numbers on the rocky islands and in the estuaries of the Baikalinfluxes.
There are 7 species of eagles and similar birds inhabiting the Baikal region, such as golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), eastern imperial eagles(A. heliaca), steppe eagles (A. nipalensis), booted eagles (Hieraaetuspennatus), Pallas's Fish-eagles(H. leucoryphus), etc.
One of the most beautiful and majestic birds is the white-headed eagle - the eastern imperial eagle. The span of its wings reaches 2 m.This eagle lives for a few dozen years. Eagles of this specieusually nest high on trees near to steppes and pastures.Their nests are usually located on the fringes of the forest, remaining in the same places for many decades.The diameter of such perennial nests can reach 2 m. One to three chicks (usually 1-2) are usually born in late May - early June, and until the end of August, young birds keep in the nesting area. The eagles migrate to south for winter season. Being a bird of Baikal legends, the eagle enjoys special reverence from Buryats.The cult of the eagle has its roots in ancient mythology: local people believe that the first shaman was the son of the terrible spirit of the Olkhonisland, who lived in the body of an imperial eagle. Therefore, the Buryats still believe that a man who killed or injured an eagle diessoon.Perhaps, this belief helped preserve a rare species that quickly disappearin other parts of the world. The only place on Lake Baikal, where the number of the eagle did not change significantly until the last ten years, is the island of Olkhon.However, in recent years it has decreased there. The reasons for this are not clear and, probably, are not connected to Baikal.
There are 53 species and subspecies of fish belonging to 13 families in Baikal.Of these, more than a half - 31 species - are represented by gobies (bullheads).They have no any commercial value (although there was a time when they were widely hooked), but very interesting for scientists, especially for evolutionary biologists.Outside Baikal, there are only two of their species: sandy and stony boulders; Most of the species appeared, apparently, in the Baikal itself.All Baikal fishes belong to three ecological-faunistic complexes: Siberian (14 species and subspecies), Siberian-Baikal (10 species and subspecies) and Baikal (29 species).The Siberian complex is composed of common Siberian species that live in the bays (local name - Baikal). These are mainly carp, percids, and pike. This group also includes acclimatized species - carp, catfish and bream.The Siberian-Baikal complex is represented by grayling, whitefish and sturgeon fishes that live in the coastal zone (up to 300 m) of the lake. The Baikal complex of fish dominates in the lake, it accounts for 56% of the total number of species and 80% of the entire fish productivity of the lake.
In the open waters of Baikal, there are two species of golomyanka. Golomyanka is a viviparous fish, which does not lay eggs, but sweeps into the water from 1 to 3 thousand larvae. This is the most numerous fish of Lake Baikal. At a body weight of 15-25 g., the total biomass of golomyanka is about 160 thousand tons, and it is more than the biomass of all other fishes taken together. However, there is no commercial value ofgolomyanka, because they do not live by large fish schools.
Out of 53 species of fish inhabiting Baikal, only 15 belong to commercial fishes. However, they are the most valuable in gastronomy (and, accordingly, in commercial fishery). These are whitefish, white grayling, black grayling, lenok, taimen, sturgeon, burbot, perch, pike, soroga (roach), dace, ide, davatchan (Salvelinus alpinus erythrinus), crucian carp.
The main commercial fish of Baikal is omul. Three groups of omul are distinguished by their habitats and external features: pelagic omul (reproduced in the Selenga River and feeding in the surface waters of Lake Baikal), coastal (spawning in the rivers of the northern part of the lake and feeding in the coastal zone) and near-bottom deepwater, spawning in small rivers.
The second place in the Baikal fishery is occupied by the cohort group of fish - roach, perch, pike, dace, ide and crucian carp. Other commercial fishes - grayling, whitefish, sturgeon, lenok due to their comparatively small number are of interest as possible objects of fish farming, as well as of amateur and sport fishing.
Some species were specially imported and produced in the catchment basin of the Baikal in the middle of the XX century, when the point of view (later recognized as erroneous) was widespread, that the forage base of Lake Baikal is underutilized, and it should be enriched with several brought commercial species.Thus the Amur sazan, the Amur catfish, the eastern breamhave appeared in the Baikal region. But there are also such invaders who penetrated into the Baikal basin not by the direct intention of man, but involuntarily, most likely - along with the mentioned types of acclimatized fish brought in cisterns from the Far East, likeChinese sleeper, a gluttonous predator with a huge head in a third of the length of the body and a large toothy mouth. The Chinese sleeper has absolutely no commercial significance, but due to its gluttony it can cause significant damage to the fishery, exterminating the juveniles of valuable fish species. The experts are alarmed by the facts of the occurrence of Chinese sleeper in Baikal already and in the areas adjacent to the Selenga delta. And, it, apparently, is destined to become one of the classic examples of the so-called biological pollution of water bodies.
Unmeasured (including poaching) catch, unfortunately, ledto the impoverishment of stocks of the most valuable species of fish. Thus, omul, sturgeon and whitefish,ones of the largest representatives of the ichthyofauna, became rare in the lake. Their industrial catch is officially prohibited.
White Grayling, Bullhead, Big golomyanka and small golomyanka, Davatchan, Dace, Lenok, Bream, Baikal burbot, Perch, Omul, Baikal waterCarp, Siberian sturgeon, Whitefish, Soroga, Taimen, Black grayling, Pike,Ide
The water of Baikal is known by its extraordinary purity and clarity. The white Secchi disk (used to determine clarity of water) is visible in Baikal to a depth of 40 meters, while the clarity of the waters of the Caspian Sea does not exceed 25 meters, of Lake Sevan - 20 meters. Baikal is higher in terms of claritythan Alpine lakes. Studies have shown that at a depth of 250 to 1200 meters the clarity of Baikal water is not less than in the Sargasso Sea, considered the world standard for the highest clarity.Aquanauts descending in depth on the bathyscaphe "Pisces" claim that the human eye, accustomed to darkness, can determine the penetration of daylight at a depth of up to 800 meters, and sensitive photographic plates fix it at depths over 1500 meters. In shallow waters and in the mouths of rivers, the clarity of water is much lower than in the deep water areas. During the spring development of algae, the clarity of water gradually decreases, and in March-May the white disk even in deep-water areas becomes invisible already at a depth of 8-10 meters. The transparency of the water also determines its color. In the deep-water area the color is turquoise-blue, as in deep seas; Asthe clarity decreases, it assumes a bluish green color; in August, in the period of maximum development of summer plankton, it becomes greenish-grayish. The lake water meets the best quality standards for clean drinking water. Rare purity and exceptional properties of Baikal water are determined by the vital activity of the animal and plant world of the lake. The main role of the water filter is performed by the microscopic crustacean of the epicurean. For a year, an armada of crayfish is able to clean the top 50 meter layer of water three times. There are very few dissolved and suspended substances, and negligible organic impuritiesin Baikal water.
Mineralization of the lake waters is low - 96.4 milligrams per liter, mainly calcium, magnesium and silicon. In other lakes, it reaches 400 or more milligrams per liter. There is no hydrogen sulfide in Lake Baikal, its water is characterized by an abundance of oxygen in both the upper and the deepest bottom layers. Excessive oxygen is promoted by active vertical water exchange in periods before freezing and after clearing the lake from ice. The oxygen content in the surface layer is 11-14 milligrams per liter, at great depths it does not fall below 70-80 per cent saturation.In the upper layers of the mantle, a hydrogen substance is formed, releasing a huge amount of energy during its combustion.Water has excellent taste and is ideal for the human body. Analyzes conducted at the University of South Carolina (USA), at the Fresençus Institute (Germany, 1995), as well as in the laboratory centers of Japan and Korea, confirmed high quality ofwater. By the purity of the waters, Baikal is probably second only to Crater Lake in the US, Oregon (610 m deep), which is recognized as a natural analogue of distilled water.
At present, there are no open water reservoirs in the world that are suitable for drinking. The only exception is Baikal. Since 1992, an industrial spill of Baikal water has been started. Water is taken from a depth of 400 m, where it is protected by the water column from surface contamination and where a constant temperature of + 4.2 ° C is maintained.
It is established that a drop of water, getting to Baikal from its tributaries, preserves here for years. Water exchange (replacement of deep waters with surface water) occurs in the northern basin for 225 years, in the middle for 132 years and in the southern basin for 66 years.The temperature regime of the Baikal water is peculiar. This is due not only to climatic conditions, but, above all, to the extraordinary depth of the lake and the sharp predominance of the deep zone over shallow waters. The horizontal circulation of water also affects the temperature regime of the lake, especially during the spring period. The water is warmest in Lake Baikal at the end of August. At this time, its temperature reaches 10-16 degrees on the surface. The deeper the water layer, the more slowly it warms up. In the summer at a depth of 20 meters the water temperature rises not more than 10 degrees, and deeper than 250 meters and to the very bottom the water has the same temperature all year round - 3-4 degrees. Thus, the sun manages to heat the Baikal waters only to a depth of 250 meters, and there is practically no temperature below these layers of seasonal fluctuations. In extensive shallow waters, in bays and litter, water warms up to 20-25 degrees.