October 11, 2013, by Matt

Summer Geoging… Lake Baikal, Siberia

The Geog Blog returns from its summer break with a series of posts from members of the School about research work undertaken through the summer vacation. These blogs will take us from Siberia, to Brazil, Greenland and Jordan amongst other amazing places; so as the nights draw in enjoy travelling with us to sunnier climates and a fantastic variety of geographies.

Our first post below come courtesy of Ginnie Panizzo; you can find more about this project at http://nottinghamlakebaikal.wordpress.com/

In August 2013, three members of the University of Nottingham, School of Geography (Dr. George Swann, Dr. Virginia Panizzo and Sarah Roberts) and Prof. Anson Mackay of UCL, conducted their second fieldtrip to Lake Baikal, Siberia. This is the second expedition as part of their NERC funded project, “Silicon isotope records of recent environmental change and anthropogenic pollution from Lake Baikal, Siberia”. This time, the team split in two, with one half conducting extensive sampling (water profiles and sediment cores) of the Lake Baikal basins, while the other half travelled along the lake’s main tributaries. The four week expedition saw a total of 30 cores collected from the three main basins of the lake and well as from satellite lakes in the Selenga catchment and delta. Numerous water profiles were conducted, from surface to basal sediments.


Water samples were collected in order to analyse the isotopic composition of dissolved silicon (d30SiDSi), nutrients, dissolved organic carbon and trace metals. This work builds on the pre-growing season sampling that was conducted by the team in March. The main premise is to understand silicon (among other nutrient) utilisation over the year by the different algal communities (predominantly diatoms). Diatoms from sediment trap material (annual and monthly) can also be analysed in order to understand their isotopic composition (d30Sidiat) and therefore the relationship between silicon supply and utilisation. This project will provide the first in-depth contemporary silicon sampling of the lake, its rivers and its delta. Of great value for the scientific community and crucial in order to calibrate down-core palaeoreconstructions.


With recent pressures on the lake, over the past few decades, this work will be essential in order to place evidence of environmental change into a context. For example, the recent decrease in lake ice cover in the Southern Basin in response to changing temperatures has been noted. Although the affect this has upon algal community structure, as well as silicon cycling and utilisation needs to be further understood. Furthermore, the effects of pollution (e.g the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, Baikalsk) and nutrient loading (e.g. from tourism in the Maloe More region) upon the lake have to this date not been clearly defined. Through palaeoproxy records from the three main basins of the lake, we hope to look at all of these responses in terms of changing algal communities and variations in nutrient utilisation/supply (d30Sidiat).

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