Importance of this research

This research brings together a number of different disciplines, including aquatic ecology and stable isotope geochemistry. It’s findings have a broad range in importance both for the scientific community as well as the local populations of Lake Baikal.

1295781082_31ef28d19f_mOne of the main research themes of this project is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the silicon cycle at Lake Baikal. At this site, diatoms (siliceous, unicellular algae), which utilise silicon to form their frustules, form the basis of the food web. Their productivity is therefore vital in maintaining a healthy lake trophic structure, with rich biodiversity. To date, few studies have extensively looked at silicon cycling (δ30Si) in lakes and particularly at Lake Baikal. This project aims to understand modern day compositions of silicon (δ30Si) in lake waters, lake ice and diatoms (before, during and after main algal growing seasons), as well as budgeting silicon from the main lake tributaries and outflows. Such modern day calibrations of the silicon cycle are interesting to the scientific community as they have not been carried out as extensively before in continental regions. Furthermore, they are vital to be able to reconstruct productivity changes from lake sediment cores. On the bais of previous research at Lake Baikal, we know that such productivity changes in recent decades are strongly linked to anthropogenic (e.g. pollution and nutrient enrichment) and natural climate variability.

Another main focus of this research is to assess the response of phytoplankton (both non-siliceous and siliceous algae) to nutrient pollution (both anthropogenically and naturally induced nutrient changes) through using algal biomarkers. Algal pigments (chlorophylls and carotenoids) are important to study as they provide knowledge of the entire phototrophic community within the lake, and not just a specific algal group. This research will contribute towards the scientific knowledge of algal biomarkers in Lake Baikal, and within deep complex freshwater systems.

Results from this research will provide valuable information that will aid scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders as to the impact of recent catchment and climate changes on Lake Baikal, as well as an indication of the lake’s vulnerability to future climate change.

There is a need for a detailed understanding as to the impact of anthropogenic influences on the lake, and this understanding will help to ensure that future development and policy plans for the catchment are capable of sustaining Lake Baikal’s unique ecosystem.

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Notts palaeolimnologists meet in China

This summer some of us palaeo researchers; Suzanne McGowan, Ginnie Panizzo, Heather Moorhouse, Mark Stevenson and Sarah Roberts, from University of Nottingham attended the 13th International Palaeolimnology Symposium (IPS) conference held in Lanzhou, China. Ginnie, who is the International Palaeolimnology Association (IPA) Young Scientist Representative, organised the Early Career Researcher Workshop at the start of the conference, which provided a great opportunity for researchers to engage in discussions on writing manuscripts, writing funding applications and applying for academic jobs. At the conference Suzanne gave a keynote talk within the ‘Putting ecology back into Paleoecology’ session, Heather presented her work on the Windermere catchment, and was awarded the best student presentation prize, and both Mark and Sarah gave talks on their work on sediment cores from lakes in Greenland and Lake Baikal.

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This was an excellent conference for us all to attend, with many interesting talks and posters in sessions including; lake sediments as recorders of human-environment interaction, new advances in applied stable isotopes, recent advances in biomarkers, and palaeolimnological work from Tibetan, Alpine, high-latitude, Polar and southeast Asian Lakes. We had a great time in China with fellow palaeolimnologists, attending talks throughout the day…and taking part in a bit of karaoke in the evening too!

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