Environment 14 September 2016 27 2653
James Brown returns to Russia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest lake, 7 years after his last visit to investigate reports that the region’s ecology had changed for the worse. The lake, known for the clarity of its freshwater, is home to hundreds of unique species of plants and animals. The beauty and rich biodiversity attracts many visitors. While tourism brings in much needed cash, it also has a flip side; tourists bring pollution, plastics and other waste. Local biologists have been monitoring the lake for 70 years and they’re increasingly concerned.
James joins a team of researchers to take water and sediment samples to see just how worrying the situation is. Visual examination reveals that a certain type of algae, usually found in swamps, has been spreading along the coast line signifying growing levels of pollution. Along with some worrying signs, there are a few hopeful ones too, like certain endemic animal populations starting to recover.
James visits Olkhon, an island popular with tourists, to see how ecologists and volunteers are fighting back against the pollution that visitors leave behind. From recycling to educating tourists and raising awareness of environmental issues, they’ve come up with effective strategies to preserve Baikal’s unique beauty and water quality. If they’re going to succeed though, they need everyone who visits or lives by this natural wonder to play their part.