Region of the Russian Federation: Irkutsk Region, Republic of Buryatia
Area: 8.8 million hectares
Criteria: (vii), (viii), (ix), (x)
Site Status: inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1996
Status of Territories composing the Site:
Central Environmental Zone of Baikal Natural Territory including “Zapovednoye Pribaikalye” (Pribaikalsky National Park and Baikalo-Lensky State Nature Reserve) (664050, Irkutsk, ul. Baiakalskaya, 291b); “Zapovednoe Podlemorye” (Zabaikalsky National Park, Barguzinsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve and Frolikhinsky Federal Sanctuary (Zakaznik) (671623 Republic of Buryatia, Ust’-Barguzinн, ul. Lenina, 7); Baikalsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve and Kabansky Federal Sanctuary (Zakaznik) (167220, Republic of Buryatia, Kabansky District, Tankhoy, ul. Krasnogvardeyskaya, 34) ; Tunkinsky National Park (partially) (671010, Republic of Buryatia, Tunkinsky District, Kyren, ul. Lenina, 69); Snezhinsky, Kochergatsky, Verkhne-Angarsky, Pribaikalsky and Enkheluksky regional sanctuaries (zakazniks).
Sacred Baikal is named the “Lake of superlatives”. It occupies an area of 3.15 million ha and is recognized as the planet’s oldest (25 million years) and deepest (nearly 1,700 м) lake. Baikal preserves in the primordial purity about 20% of the world’s fresh water resources.
It is an important center of speciation: a «laboratory of biological diversity». During many millions of years its closed ecosystem formed a unique, by the world standards, “biosphere”, whose study has enduring importance for understanding the evolution of life on the Earth.
The Baikal trough is a central link of the Baikal rift zone, one of the Earth’s largest ancient fracture systems. Scientific data shows it is still active. Baikal’s shores are diverging with a speed of 2 centimeters a year.
The lake hollow together with the framing mountain systems is the most important natural boundary of Siberia. The borders of different flora and fauna complexes meet here. Biogeocenoses without analogy are represented here.
One of the richest and the most unusual of the world’s freshwater fauna formed in the lake. Of the over 2,630 species and subspecies of animals and plants found to date more than 80% are not met anywhere else in the world.
It is hard to find a person which has not heard of the Baikal omul. Two unique viviparous fish species, endemic to Baikal – the Great and Small golomyanka – are well known to the world’s ichtyologists. A typically marine mammal, the nerpa or Baikal seal, crowns the Baikal ecosystem.
The lake is a singular and very fragile natural ecosystem that provides a natural process of cleanest water formation.
Baikal waters are famous all over the world for their transparency and purity. Not so many places remain on the Earth where it is possible to drink water just drawing it near the shore with a mug and its transparency reaches 40 meters.
For Siberia the climate of the Baikal’s shores is relatively mild and the number of sunny days in a year in some places is higher than at many Black Sea resorts.