Algae “hanging” over Baikal

What is spirogyra

Spirogyra is one of the most studied algae in the world, discovered two centuries ago. It consists of unbranched filaments (cylindrical cells), lives in warm, fresh and slightly salty lakes and streams around the world, looks like cotton-like formations that float on the surface and cover the bottom.

What harm is it to Baikal

Where there was crystal clear water, now green, smelly seaweed jelly. The coast, which previously shone with clean sand, is now dirty and swampy. For several years, it has been forbidden to swim on many previously popular beaches of Lake Baikal due to the dangerous content of E. coli in the water, which has bred perfectly in dirty water.

In addition, spirogyra displaces endemics (species that live only in Baikal – author’s note): gastropods, Baikal sponges, and it is they who ensure the crystal clearness of the lake. It occupies the breeding grounds of the yellowfly goby, which is the food of the Baikal omul. Makes it impossible to fish in the coastal zone. Spirogyra covers the shores of the lake with a thick layer, rots, poisoning the water, making it unfit for consumption.

Why did spirogyra breed so much

Why did algae proliferate so much, which previously lived quietly and peacefully in normal quantities in the lake and did not interfere with anyone? Phosphates are considered the main reason for growth, because spirogyra feeds on them and actively grows due to them. In addition, they themselves destroy other microorganisms, clearing territories for spirogyra. Phosphates are a fertilizer for spirogyra, they are contained in cheap washing powder, washing is impossible without it, and many people are not ready to buy expensive powders.

According to the director of the Limnological Institute Mikhail Grachev, there is an immeasurable amount of spirogyra on the shore, treatment facilities do not clean anything, dirty water flows from them, everyone knows this, but they do nothing. And in general, experts talk about the deterioration of the environmental situation around the lake, which is a consequence of the discharge of waste from local residents and vacationers, as well as emissions from industrial enterprises.

What experts say

Spirogyra initially grows well in a warm environment, and in Baikal the water is rather cold, so it did not stand out among other plants before. But, feeding on phosphates, it grows well in cold water, this can be seen with the naked eye in the spring, the ice has just melted, and it is already actively occupying new territories.

The way to solve the problem is based on three steps. The first step is to build new treatment facilities. The second is in the cleanup of the coastal zone. In order to clean the water area, you need not only to collect spirogyra from the surface, but also from the bottom. And this is a very time-consuming work, because it requires removing 30 centimeters of soil in order to guarantee its destruction (spirogyra is found starting from the coast and down to a depth of 40 meters). The third is the ban on draining water from washing machines into the water of the Selenga, Upper Angara, Barguzin, Turka, Snezhnaya and Sarma rivers. But, even if all the inhabitants of the Irkutsk region and the Republic of Buryatia refuse cheap powder, it will take several years to restore the ecosystem of the lake, it has been formed for many years and it is naive to believe that it will quickly recover.


Some officials say that the lake is too big for mud to swamp it, but this claim is denied by scientists. They explored the bottom and found that at a depth of 10 meters there are large, multi-layered accumulations of spirogyra. The lower layers, due to lack of oxygen, rot, releasing toxic substances, and descend to even greater depths. Thus, reserves of rotten algae accumulate in Baikal – it turns into a huge compost pit.

Lake Baikal contains 20% of the world’s fresh water reserves, while every sixth person in the world experiences a lack of drinking water. In Russia, this is not relevant yet, but in the era of climate change and man-made disasters, the situation may change. It would be reckless not to take care of a valuable resource, because a person cannot live without water for even a couple of days. In addition, Baikal is a holiday destination for many Russians. Let us remember that the lake is a national treasure that belongs to Russia and we are responsible for it.



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