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Lake Billy Chinook, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon.
Lake Billy Chinook, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon.

Limnology is the study of inland bodies of water and related ecosystems. Limnology divides lakes into three zones: the littoral zone, a sloped area close to land; the photic or open-water zone, where sunlight is abundant; and the deep-water profundal or benthic zone, where little sunlight can reach. The depth to which light can reach in lakes depends on turbidity, determined by the density and size of suspended particles. A particle is in suspension if its weight is less than the random turbidity forces acting upon it. These particles can be sedimentary or biological in origin and are responsible for the color of the water. Decaying plant matter, for instance, may be responsible for a yellow or brown color, while algae may cause greenish water. In very shallow water bodies, iron oxides make water reddish brown. Biological particles include algae and detritus. Bottom-dwelling detritivorous fish can be responsible for turbid waters, because they stir the mud in search of food. Piscivorous fish contribute to turbidity by eating plant-eating (planktonivorous) fish, thus increasing the amount of algae (see aquatic trophic cascade). The light depth or transparency is measured by using a Secchi disk, a 20-centimeter (8 in) disk with alternating white and black quadrants. The depth at which the disk is no longer visible is the Secchi depth, a measure of transparency. The Secchi disk is commonly used to test for eutrophication. For a detailed look at these processes, see lentic system ecology.

A lake moderates the surrounding region's temperature and climate because water has a very high specific heat capacity (4,186 J·kg-1·K-1). In the daytime, a lake can cool the land beside it with local winds, resulting in a sea breeze; in the night, it can warm it with a land breeze.

See also: Lake aeration

[edit] How lakes disappear

Lake Chad in a 2001 satellite image, with the actual lake in blue, and vegetation on top of the old lake bed in green. Above that, the changes from 1973 to 1997 are shown.
Lake Chad in a 2001 satellite image, with the actual lake in blue, and vegetation on top of the old lake bed in green. Above that, the changes from 1973 to 1997 are shown.

A lake may be infilled with deposited sediment and gradually become a wetland such as a swamp or marsh. Large water plants, typically reeds, accelerate this closing process significantly because they partially decompose to form peat soils that fill the shallows. Conversely, peat soils in a marsh can naturally burn and reverse this process to recreate a shallow lake. Turbid lakes and lakes with many plant-eating fish tend to disappear more slowly. A "disappearing" lake (barely noticeable on a human timescale) typically has extensive plant mats at the water's edge. These become a new habitat for other plants, like peat moss when conditions are right, and animals, many of which are very rare. Gradually the lake closes, and young peat may form, forming a fen. In lowland river valleys, where a river can meander, the presence of peat is explained by the infilling of historical oxbow lakes. In the very last stages of succession, trees can grow in, eventually turning the wetland into a forest.

Some lakes can disappear seasonally. These are called intermittent lakes and are typically found in karstic terrain. A prime example of an intermittent lake is Lake Cerknica in Slovenia.

Sometimes a lake will disappear quickly. On 3 June 2005, in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia, a lake called Lake Beloye vanished in a matter of minutes. News sources reported that government officials theorized that this strange phenomenon may have been caused by a shift in the soil underneath the lake that allowed its water to drain through channels leading to the Oka River.[5]

The presence of ground permafrost is important to the persistence of some lakes. According to research published in the journal Science ("Disappearing Arctic Lakes," June 2005), thawing permafrost may explain the shrinking or disappearance of hundreds of large Arctic lakes across western Siberia. The idea here is that rising air and soil temperatures thaw permafrost, allowing the lakes to drain away into the ground.

Neusiedler See, located in Austria and Hungary, has dried up many times over the millennia. As of 2005, it is again rapidly losing water, giving rise to the fear that it will be completely dry by 2010.

Some lakes disappear because of human development factors. The shrinking Aral Sea is described as being "murdered" by the diversion for irrigation of the rivers feeding it.

See also: Prairie Lake

[edit] Extraterrestrial lakes

Io exhibits extraordinary variations in color and brightness as shown in this color-enhanced image.
Io exhibits extraordinary variations in color and brightness as shown in this color-enhanced image.

At present the surface of the planet Mars is too cold and has too little atmospheric pressure to permit the pooling of liquid water on the surface. Geologic evidence appears to confirm, however, that ancient lakes once formed on the surface. It is also possible that volcanic activity on Mars will occasionally melt subsurface ice creating large lakes. Under current conditions this water would quickly freeze and evaporate unless insulated in some manner, such as by a coating of volcanic ash.

Jupiter's small moon Io is volcanically active due to tidal stresses, and as a result sulfur deposits have accumulated on the surface. Some photographs taken during the Galileo mission appear to show lakes of liquid sulfur on the surface.

There are dark basaltic plains on the Moon, similar to lunar maria but smaller, that are called lacus (singular lacus, Latin for "lake") because they were thought by early astronomers to be lakes of water.

Photographs taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft on July 24, 2006, give strong evidence for the existence of methane or ethene lakes on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

[edit] Notable lakes

  • The largest lake in the world by surface area is the Caspian Sea. With a surface area of 394,299 km² (152,240 mi²), it has a surface area greater than the next six largest lakes combined.
  • The deepest lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia, with a bottom at 1,637 m (5,371 ft). Its mean depth is also the highest in the world (749 m)
    It is the world's largest freshwater lake by volume (23,000 km³), and the second longest (about 630 km from tip to tip).
  • The longest freshwater lake is Lake Tanganyika, with a length of about 660 km (measured along the lake's center line).
    It is also the second deepest in the world (1,470 m) after lake Baikal.
  • The world's oldest lake is Lake Baikal, followed by Lake Tanganyika (Tanzania).
  • The world's highest lake is an unnamed pool on Ojos del Salado at 6,390 metres (20,965 ft).[6] The Lhagba Pool in Tibet at 6,368 m (20,892 ft) comes second.[7]
  • The world's highest commercially navigable lake is Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia at 3,812 m (12,507 ft). It is also the largest freshwater (and second largest overall) lake in South America.
  • The world's lowest lake is the Dead Sea, bordering Israel, Jordan at 418 m (1,371 ft) below sea level. It is also one of the lakes with highest salt concentration.
  • Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake by surface area (82,414 km²). It is also the third largest by water volume. However, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan form a single hydrological system with surface area 117,350 km², sometimes designated Lake Michigan-Huron. All these are part of the Great Lakes of North America.
  • Lake Huron has the longest lake coastline in the world: about 2980 km, excluding the coastline of its many inner islands.
  • The largest island in a freshwater lake is Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, with a surface area of 2,766 km². Lake Manitou, located on Manitoulin Island, is the largest lake on an island in a freshwater lake.
  • The largest lake located on an island is Nettilling Lake on Baffin Island.
  • The largest lake in the world that drains naturally in two directions is Wollaston Lake.
  • Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra is located in what is probably the largest resurgent caldera on Earth.
  • The largest lake located completely within the boundaries of a single city is Lake Wanapitei in the city of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
    Before the current city boundaries came into effect in 2001, this status was held by Lake Ramsey, also in Sudbury.
  • Lake Enriquillo in Dominican Republic is the only saltwater lake in the world inhabited by crocodiles.
  • Lake of the Ozarks is one of the United States largest man made lakes, created by the Bagnell Dam [8]

[edit] Largest by continent

The largest lakes (surface area) by continent are:

Note: Lake Maracaibo is considered by far the largest lake in South America. It, however, lies at sea level with a relatively wide opening to sea, so it is better described as a bay.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. , Downing JA, Prairie YT, Cole JJ, Duarte CM, Tranvick LJ, Striegel RG, McDowell WH, Kortelainen P, Melack JM, Middleburg JJ (2006). The global abundance and size distribution of lakes, ponds and impoundments. Limnology and Oceanography, 51: 2388-2397.
  2. , Williams P, Whitfield M, Biggs J, Bray S, Fox G, Nicolet P and Sear D. (2004). Comparative biodiversity of rivers, streams, ditches and ponds in an agricultural landscape in Southern England. Biological Conservation 115: 329-341.
  3. , Elton, C.S. and Miller, R.S. (1954). The ecological survey of animal communities: with a practical system of classifying habitats by structural characters. Journal of Ecology, 42, 460-496.
  4. , Statistics Finland
  5. , :: The Montana Standard ::
  6. , Andes Website - Information about Ojos del Salado volcano, a high mountain in South America and the World's highest volcano
  7. , Highest Lake
  8. , http://www.lakeozark.com

[edit] External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Look up Lake in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

(Source: Wikipedia)
 
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