Irkutsk, October 4, 2019 - En + Group, a leading vertically integrated producer of aluminum and electricity, together with Moscow State University, has completed a scientific expedition to Lake Baikal. Scientists from Moscow and Siberian scientific institutions and universities conducted a detailed study of ecosystems around the lake and collected extensive material to help understand the environmental problems facing Baikal.
The expedition was carried out as part of the En+ Group’s comprehensive program to preserve Baikal and protected areas of Russia from adverse environmental impacts. The study involved specialists from Moscow State University, the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute for Information Transmission Problems, the Siberian Federal University and Irkutsk State University.
The main goal of the research was to study the most vulnerable areas of the lake’s ecosystem. During the expedition, researchers conducted multidisciplinary studies combining the knowledge and experience of biologists, chemists, mathematicians and geographers.
Specialists from the expedition carried out the largest ever study of microplastic in the lake, finding that the concentration of particles is already significant. The researchers warned that the speed at which these plastics are spreading in Baikal is worryingly high.
The scientists found various metals, toxins and nutrients in the lake. As part of the expedition, they were able to identify where these pollutants are most concentrated, highlighting, for example, specific areas where volumes of surface-active substances exceeded permissible levels.
Researchers continued investigations into the increased blooming of filamentous algae, which is an important indicator of changes in the quality of lake water. In addition, they carried out an assessment of the lake’s endemic sponge population, Lubomirskia baicalensis. This species acts as a filter for the lake water, but has been suffering from necrosis.
Following the completion of the expedition, the researchers will now undertake laboratory analysis of the samples collected. A detailed report is expected to be ready by December with the aim that findings inform targeted efforts to reduce human pressures on Baikal and support a multi-stakeholder strategy for conserving the lake’s unique ecosystem.
Mikhail Kolobov, Candidate of Biological Sciences, Senior Researcher, Department of Hydrobiology, Faculty of Biology, Moscow State University MV Lomonosov, leader of the expedition, said:
“The expedition has been invaluable in helping us identify the main risk factors affecting Lake Baikal. While economic development around the lake is inevitable given the population size, this work will help inform effective monitoring and regulation of economic activity to ensure the lake is protected for generations to come.”
Vladimir Kiryukhin, CEO of En + Group, said:
“Baikal is at the heart of our business and its conservation is a key element of our strategy for sustainable development. This year we have significantly expanded our support for scientific research into the challenges facing the lake, as well as launching our Envision project to provide regulators with accurate long-term forecasts of water level changes. Looking ahead, our aim to engage all stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive strategy for the protection of this unique environment.”