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  Main arrow Baikal Discovery Digest arrow Lake Baikal Ecology arrow UNESCO Brief Description  
UNESCO Brief Description Print

Lake Baikal

Russian Federation
Irkutsk and Chita regions,
Republic of Buryatia
53° 10' 25" N, 107° 39' 45" E 

“The Committee inscribed Lake Baikal as the most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem on the basis of natural criteria (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv). It is the oldest and deepest of the worldґs lakes containing nearly 20% of the worldґs unfrozen freshwater reserve. The lake contains an outstanding variety of endemic flora and fauna, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science. It is also surrounded by a system of protected areas that have high scenic and other natural values”.

Justification for Inscription:
Report of the 20th Session of the Committee of  UNESCO World Heritage List

Brief description:
Situated in south-east Siberia, the 3.15-million-ha Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserve. Known as the 'Galapagos of Russia', its age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science.

Russian Federation
Natural World Heritage criteria (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv)

2.44.14 (Lake Baikal)

Lies in south-east Siberia in the Russian Federation, covering parts of the Irkutsk Oblast and the Republic of Buryatia and comprises Lake Baikal, that part of its catchment in the Russian Federation, the river-head of the Angara River and the Irkutsk water reservoir.
The core area of the nomination is the Lake Baikal itself and the land from 5km to 70km surrounding it. The major cities nearest to the nominated area are Irkutsk and Ulan Ude. Access to the area is provided by air connections, the Trans-Siberian railway, and major roads along the southern shores of the Lake; Irkutsk and Ulan Ude both have international airports. 52°30'N/107°30'E.

The nominated property covers 88,000sq.km, including 19,000sq.km in protected areas. The surface area of Lake Baikal is 31,500sq.km and the Lake Baikal Coastal Protection Zone covers 56,500sq.km.
Baikalo-Lenskiy Zapovednik 659,919ha Baikalsky Zapovednik 165,724ha Barguzinsky Zapovednik 374,423ha Zabaikalsky National Park 245,000ha Pribaikalsky National Park 418,000ha Frolikhinskiy Zakaznik 68,000ha Kabansky Zakaznik 18,000ha The Lake Baikal Coastal Protection Zone5,650,000ha The Selenga Delta (Ramsar site) 12,000ha

Government, with some long-term leases to organizations and private individuals.

From -1,637m to 2,840m. The deepest point of the Lake Baikal is 1,637m, which is 1,182m below sea level, whilst the surface is 455m above sea level. The highest peak of the Lake Baikal watershed is 2,840m in the Barguzin mountain range.

Lake Baikal, which dominates the nominated property, is the deepest in the world, has the greatest volume of any freshwater lake in the world (23,000 km³ - equivalent to approximately 20% of all running fresh water in the world) and is the sixth largest in terms of open water area. The Lake is 636km long and up to 80km wide and is the oldest major lake in the world at 25 million years. It has exceptionally clear water (up to 40m visibility), and a mineral content 25-50% lower than most other freshwater lakes. The unusual purity of the water is due to the presence of Epischura zooplankton, and the fact that most of Lake Baikal's watershed is surfaced with rock so that water inflow has little mineral or chemical contact.
There are 365 rivers flowing into the Lake and only one, the Angara River, flowing out. The six main rivers flowing to the Lake are: Selenga, Chikoy, Khilok, Uda, Barguzin and Upper Angara Rivers.
The formation of the geological structures in the basin took place during the Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic periods and there a number of significant geological features. The largest element in the system is the tectonic hollow of Lake Baikal itself and ongoing tectonic activity is evidenced by the presence of thermal vents in the depths of the Lake.

Comprises a continental climate with profound fluctuations of both annual and daily temperatures. Mean daily temperatures range from -25°C in January to 18°C in July. However, Lake Baikal itself creates a microclimate within a 25km radius of its shores, distinct from the terrestrial part of the basin. Winter temperatures are less severe at -21°C, and summer temperatures are cooler (15°C). The surface of the Lake freezes during winter, with ice present until mid-June. The wind regime is comparable to those found in coastal areas: in winter, winds blow from the relatively cold land to the lake, and in summer, from the lake to the relatively warm land (Galaziy, 1993).

The great variety of plants in the basin is determined by climatic asymmetry: the western part of the basin is occupied by light coniferous forests and mountain steppes; in the east pine forest predominate whilst the north is dominated by deciduous forests. Terraces near the shore in the north support larch Larix dahurica and Rhododendron dahuricum, grading into the more fertile mixed fir-Korean pine Pinus koraiensis (R) taiga and larch forests of Pinus sibirica and Larix sibirica, with some spruce Picea obovata, monotypic willow Chosenia macrolepis, with an understorey of honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, rowan Sorbus aucuparia and currants Ribes rubrum and R. nigrum. At higher altitudes pure stands of fir Abies sibirica and 'cedar' Pinus sibirica forest are found, followed at still higher altitudes by thickets of dwarf pine Pinus pumila. At the highest levels Kobresia-dominated tundra, peaty meadows with sedges Carex spp. are typical, and Betula ermanii on stoney talus and lichen Cladonia and Cetraria-covered rocks and cliffs are found. In total 600 species of vascular plants have been recorded (Borodin, 1983).
In the southern part of the basin, in Baikalskiy Zapovednik for example, a well- marked altitudinal zonation also occurs. Sphagnum bogs and forests of poplar Populus and the monotypic willow C. macrolepis occupy low-lying areas, while the river valleys contain bird cherry Prunus padus, rowan S. aucuparia and alder Alnus glutinosa. The northern slopes of the mountains have taiga of korean pine P. koraiensis, spruce Picea and 'cedar' P. sibirica, with fir Abies sibirica dominant in places. The southern slopes are covered in mixed larch L. sibirica and pine Pinus sp. forest which gives way to steppe vegetation on the foothills. At higher altitudes there are cedar elfin woodland and mountain tundra shrubs such as Rhododendron parvifolium. The high altitude meadows support thickets of dwarf Siberian pine Pinus pumila and birch Betula middendorfii. In total, 800 species of vascular of the most diverse plant have been recorded (Borodin, 1983).

Lake Baikal is one in the world with 1,500 aquatic species, 80% being endemic, including 255 species of shrimp-like amphipod species and 80 species of flatworm. The most noteworthy aquatic species is the unique freshwater Baikal seal Phoca sibirica.
The terrestrial fauna by comparison is less distinctive, being characteristic of the wider region. The northern lake shores, for example at Barguzinsky Zapovednik, has a faunal diversity that is characteristic of the taiga with 39 species of mammal recorded, including pika Ochotona hyperborea, Siberian chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus, marmot Marmota baibacina, flying squirrel Pteromys volans, fox Vulpes vulpes, brown bear Ursus arctos, stoats and weasels Mustela altaia, M. erminea, M. nivalis and M. sibirica, otter Lutra lutra, large numbers of sable Martes zibellina princeps noted for its exceptionally valuable fur, wolverine Gulo gulo, a local race of musk deer Moschus moschiferus, Siberian red deer Cervus elaphus sibiricus, elk Alces alces and reindeer Rangifer tarandus. The avifauna includes 243 bird species, among them white-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla and capercaillie Tetrao urogallus.
To the south, (Baikalsky Zapovednik) there are 37 mammal species and 260 species of bird. Many of them are the same species found in the northern part of the basin. Other species of mammal include steppe polecat M. eversmanii and Kolinsky weasel M. sibirica, lynx Felis lynx, wild pig Sus scrofa and roe deer Caprolus capreolus. Birds include species of swan goose Anser cygnoides, crested honey buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus, black kite Milvus migrans, hawk owl Sunia ulula, rock ptarmigan Lagopus mutus, hazel grouse Tetrastes bonasia, capercaillie Tetrao urogallus and great bustard Otis tarda (Borodin, 1983).

The region is rich in cultural heritage. Some 1,200 Archaeological remains of past cultures have been found around the Lake Baikal shores: rock drawings, stone walls and remains of ancient settlements and 1,000 such monuments have legal protection. The Huns, Kaganates of the Zhouzhanhs, ancient Turks, Uighurs and Kidanhs, who maintained broad international relations with both the East and the West ,lived around the Lake. Lake Baikal and the Selenga River are mentioned in ancient Chinese chronicles, Muslim historical manuscripts and old Russian books. Buddhist and shaman shrines and Russian Orthodox churches are found (Anon, 1995).

The local population represents different ethnic groups, including Russians, Buryats, Evenks and others. The population living permanently in the Lake Baikal basin is about one hundred thousand people. About half of the population are urban, the remainder living in villages. The main activities are forestry, agriculture, fisheries, hunting and tourism. The main towns in the area are Severobaikalsk, Babushkin, Selenginsk, Baikalsk, Sludyanka. The territory of these five urban centres are excluded from the World Heritage property.

FACILITIES Lake Baikal is much visited by local, national and international tourists. There are several camping and tourists bases on the Lake shore. The more inhabited southern and eastern parts are better developed in terms of facilities and infrastructure. The mountain ranges of the Eastern Sayans and Barguzin attract climbers. Irkutsk and Ulan Ude provide services and facilities for tourists and visitors (Ministry of Environmental Protection, 1994b).

The Limnological Scientific Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences located at Listvyanka Settlement is the major research body. It is well equipped and maintains relations with many other national and international scientific centres. An exceptional volume of research has been undertaken, and the Limnological Institute records more than 10,000 scientific papers.

Lake Baikal Basin provides an outstanding example of the evolutionary development of a rift zone of global scale and includes contrasting landscapes of mountains, forests, steppes, tundra and lake. It contain the most ancient and largest freshwater reservoir on Earth, and 80% of the aquatic fauna is endemic. The surrounding area is also rich in biological diversity, landscape values and cultural and scientific values.

Baikalo-Lenskiy Zapovednik 1986 Baikalsky Zapovednik 1969 Barguzinsky Zapovednik 1916 Zabaikalsky National Park 1986 Pribaikalsky National Park 1986 Frolikhinskiy Zakaznik 1976 Kabansky Zakaznik 1974
The Lake Baikal Coastal Protection Zone1987 The Selenga Delta (Ramsar site) 1994
In 1916 the first nature reserve, Barguzinsky Zapovednik, was established on the north-east coast of Lake Baikal. From 1969 to 1986 two more Zapovedniks and two National Parks, along with two Federal zakazniks, were established in the nominated area. The Barguzinsky Zapovednik and Baikalsky Zapovednik were internationally recognised under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme in 1986 as two units of the Lake Baikal Region Biosphere Reserve.
The Lake Baikal Coastal Protection Zone was established in 1987 by the Decision 434 of the Council of Ministers of the USSR with the aim of protecting Lake Baikal's shores through protection of the forests. The boundary of the World Heritage nomination coincides with the Coastal Protection Zone.
In 1994 a part of the Kabansky Zakaznik in the River Selenga delta was internationally recognised as a Ramsar site.
Inscribed as a natural World Heritage property in 1996.

Existing protected areas preserve the most important areas. All zapovedniks in the area are managed by the Russian State Committee of Environmental Protection, all national parks and zakazniks are managed by the Federal Forestry. There is no information available about management plans of the protected areas.
In 1989 the Territorial Comprehensive Scheme for the Protection of Nature in the Area of Lake Baikal (Tercsop) was adopted (Ministry of Environmental Protection, 1994b). It is dedicated primarily to the protection of Lake Baikal by creating a central protection zone around the Lake and buffer zones on the watershed basin, control of waste disposal, industry and a complete ban on logging in the sub-coastal zone.
A Baikal Commission was established in 1993 and is the key administrative body co- ordinating the efforts of Federal and the three regional governments as well as NGOs and scientific experts.
Resolution No 1306 of the Government of the Russian Federation dated 25 November 1994 created the Comprehensive Federal Programme for the Protection of Lake Baikal and Rational Use of its Natural Resources. It was prepared by the then Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of the Russian Federation (Moscow), the Council of Ministers of the Buryat Republic (Ulan Ude), and the administrations of Irkutsk Oblast (Irkutsk) and Chita Oblast (Chita). The Federal programme contains measures for implementation of an environmental protection strategy in the context of sustainable development (Anon, 1995).
The legal basis for management is provided for in the provisions of a new Federal Law on the Protection of Lake Baikal. This has passed its first reading the Russian Duma and is expected to be passed in the near future (November 1996). In addition to this Federal law there are many relevant local laws and regulations that contribute to the protection of the Lake.

The main source of pollution in the Lake Baikal basin is the pulp and paper mill at Baikalsky, but this is due to be converted to other uses at a cost of US$100 million. A second paper and pulp production complex at Selenginsk has been converted to a closed water-cycle system, and waste dumping in to the Lake has ceased. The second major source of pollution is the Selenga river, despite the installation of more than 100 waste water treatment plants during the past decade. The city of Severobaikalsk continues to be a source of pollution into the Lake. Tree felling in the shore zone ceased in 1986, as was the harmful practice of log transport on the Lake. However, there is still heavy exploitation in the region outside the core zone of the Lake.


LOCAL ADDRESSES Federal Service of Forestry of the Russian Federation (Rosleskhoz), 59/19, Pyatnitskaya St., Moscow, 113095, Russia.
State Committee of Environmental Protection, 8/1, Kedrova St., Moscow, 117874, Russia.
Council of Ministers of Buryat Republic, Sovetskaya Square, Dom Sovetov, Ulan Ude, 670000.
State Committee of Buryat Republic of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, 21a, Solnechnaya St., Ulan Ude, 670031.
Buryat Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch of RAS, 6, Sakhyanova St., Ulan Ude, 670042.
Irkutsk Regional Administration, Kirov Square, Dom Sovetov, 664027, Irkutsk.
Irkutsk Regional Committee of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, 16, Parkovaya St., Irkutsk, 664012.
Irkutsk Scientific Centre, Siberian Branch of RAS, 134, Lermontov St., Irkutsk, 664033.

Anon. (1995). The Lake Baikal Basin World Heritage Nomination. Prepared by Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Russia. 9 pp.
Borodin, A.M. and Syroechkovski, E.E. (1983). Zapovedniki SSSR. Moscow. Publishing house 'Lesnaya promyshlennost'. 249 pp.
Galaziy, G.I. (1988). Baikal v voprosakh i otvetakh. Publishing House 'Mysyl', Moscow. 286 pp.
Galaziy, G.I. et.al. (1993). The Baikal Atlas. Moscow. The Federal Service of Geodezy and Cartography. 160 pp.
Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Russia et.al. (1994a). Zapovedniki Rossii: Sbornik materialov letopisei prirody za 1991/92 gody. Moscow. 210pp.
Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Russia et.al. (1994b). Comprehensive Federal Programme for the Protection of Lake Baikal and Rational Use of its Natural Resources. In two parts. Official document approved by Resolution N°1306 of the Government of the Russian Federation of 25.11.1994. (Unpublished).
Government Committee on Lake Baikal, Russian Federation (1993). The Problems of Lake Baikal Protection and Nature Management in the Lake Baikal. Annual Report. (Unpublished).



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