The Baikal world is extremely diverse. Now Baikal is known to have 1550 species and varieties of animals and 1085 species of plant organisms.
By deep endemism (uniqueness). In the open part of the lake the fauna by 60% is endemic. All in all, 11 families and subfamilies, 96 genera, uniting about 1000 species are endemic to Baikal.
Baikalian organisms are adapted to live in a very narrow temperature range. Endemic species of the golomyanka fish, for example, live in water with temperatures from + 3,5 to +10. With its increase higher than +10 these organisms first get inhibited, then at +12 they perish. At the same time the golomyanka and epishura are practically unresponsive to pressure changes (the golomyanka can migrate from the greatest depths and to the surface).
Out of 52 species of baikalian fish 27 species are endemic.
The plant belt of the Baikal coastline is formed by bottom algae, not by higher plants as in other lakes. There are many endemics among bottom algae. In their growths there live many aquatic invertebrates. Also you can see there baikalian sponges - animals of bright green colour due to symbiosis with green unicellular algae.
Baikalian endemic algae living in the water thickness - diatom, peridinean - are actively developing under ice. In some rich-crop years their biomass can reach 100 g/km2 in the upper water layer.
On the bottom. Most diverse communities of inverterbrates populate the bottom of Baikal from the water edge to maximum depths. These communities are dominated by gammarids, oligochaetes, mollusks, larvae of aquatic insects.
It is Epishura baikalensis, living in the water thickness. The pelagic amphipoda macrohectopus is also found there. It, in its turn, (together with goby fish - golomyanka and sculpins) - is the main diet of the baikalian nerpa (seal).
The omul Coregonus autumnalis migratorius. Omul feeds upon zoop - lankton, bottom gammarids, larvae of insects and the young of fish. Omul spawns in the tributaries of Baikal in autumn. Maximum catches (the 40's) were 60-80 thous. tons.
The omul population is subject to fluctuations due to intensive fishing and seasonal conditions of spawning.
Some scientists believe that omul penetrated into Baikal from pre-estuary parts of the rivers, flowing into the Arctic ocean, particularly through the Yenisei and Angara. Others think that ancestors of all sig fish are pelagic sig fish of the continental waterbodies of Siberia. It is supposed that omul appeared in Baikal comparatively recently, may be in the glacial or pos-glacial periods. In Baikal it underwent considerable changes and can be considered an endemic at a sub-species level.
In Baikal there are 4 populations of omul: the Selenga, the Chivyrkui, the North-Baikalian and the Posolsky. Some scientists single out the Barguzin population which at the present time has practically perished due to heavy pollution of the river Barguzin. The Posolsky population is artificially bred from roe incubated in special apparatuses. So, there are only 3 populations of omul in Baikal, all of them are rather inactive.
The sturgeon Acipenser baeri inhabits a shallow zone of the Baikal pre-estuary sites. It spawns in large tributaries: the Selenga and Ust-Barguzin, It grows slowly, reaching maturity in the 18th to 20th year. In the XXth century the sturgeon's catch was rather considerable. At the present time its resources are nearly exhausted due to uncontrolled fishing of the young and spawning fish.
It is Goby fish:
The small golomyanka Comephorus dybowskii - is a representative of the endemic family Comephoridae, a pelagic species, making diurnal vertical migrations. The species populates the whole water layer up to the 1600 m depths. It feeds upon pelagic crayfish - epishura and macrohectopus,- and also upon its own fry and the fry of the big golomyanka. A well developed lateral line permits it to hunt successfully at great depths. The small golomyanka spawns at the age of 2-3 years old, giving birth to live larvae, which develop in the body of a female during 90-100 days. Its biomass is enormous - about 100 thous. tons. It is an essential component of the diet for the seal (nerpa) and omul. This fish is of no commercial importance for it does not form shoals accessible to catching.
The sculpin Cottocomephorus grewingki is a small pelagic fish (about 10 cm long), spread to the 250 m depths. It feeds upon plankton, spawns under stones in the coastal zone at the age of 2-3 years old. The sculpin forms 3 spawning shoals: the May, the August and the March, has a complicated territorial behaviour. The young of the sculpin form coastal accumulations which serve as food for omul and other fish. As studies of the scientists of the Scientific-Research Institute of Biology of the Irkutsk State University have shown, the sculpin's fry have an inborn defensive response to smell of predatory fish.
About 230 thous. tons, including about 60 thous. tons of commercial fish.
The sole representative of mammals is the seal or nerpa. According to the classification the baikalian nerpa belongs to the family of seals, the genus Pusa.
It is thought that nerpa penetrated into Baikal from the Arctic ocean through the Angara and Yenisei rivers in the glacial epoch. But there is no evidence for it as yet.
About 60 thous.
56 years for females and 53 for males.
It affected them considerably. For instance, in the 50-60's there was a commercial catch of sculpin, but due to the rise of the Baikal level after the construction of the Irkutsk hydropower station dam, its numbers considerably decreased. The level rise by 1 m resulted in changing the conditions of reproduction of this species. Decrease of the sculpin numbers posed serious problems as to food for omul which caused, in its turn, the reduction in the omul numbers. By the present time the sculpin numbers are increasing, but have not reached the 50's level yet.
Average weight is about 50 kg, maximum weight of males - 130-150 kg 1.7-1.8 m long; of males about 110 kg, 1.3-1.6 m long.
Brown bear. It often occurs only in the Khamar-Daban, Baikalsk, Barguzin ranges. May be observed and hunted.
Noble deer. Around Baikal there is its subspecies Manchurian deer. Noble deer is abundant only in the Khamar-Daban range and along the slopes of the western coast of Baikal. May be observed and hunted.
Forest northern deer. It is often met on elevations of the Baikalsk and Barguzin ranges may be observed and hunted.
Musk deer. It is the smallest deer, the sole representative of the family Moschidae in Russia. It is very abundant in the Khamar-Daban Range, in other mountainous regions is scarce.
The number of game mammals has dramatically decreased lately due to uncontrolled hunting.
The sable Martes zibellina L. It is abundant only in dark-coniferous forests of the Baikalsk and Barguzin ranges. To protect the sable the Barguzin Nature Reserve was founded.
Common Capercaillie occurs - on the western coast in coniferous and deciduous forests (observation and hunting only on "courtship displays").
Stone Capercaillie - in the forests of the eastern coast.
Of birds whose life is connected with water, most abundant are ducks. Their nesting grounds are river mouths and other swampy parts of the coasts. Here they stay during their migrations. Ducks are popular objects for hunting on Baikal. One of the interesting species is gray duck, which occur on swampy shores of waterbodies in forest-steppe zones.
From far away one can see habitats of grey herons on willow branches in the river Selenga delta. Now the number of herons here contunues to grow. The reason for, probably, lies in the appearance of a new kind of food for these fish-eating birds. Amur sleeper which has high numbers during last 10 years happened to come into the Selenga river. And herons prefer to feed on it, but not on pike and crucian, as it was before.
Most abundany of gulls on Baikal is the black-headed gull, which populate swampy shores of waterbodies. About 20 thous. birds of this species nest there. Black-headed gulls ringed in summer on Baikal, were found in winter in Western Europe, China and Vietnam. Gull birds occur not only in rocky shores of the lake, but also on swamps of the coast. The most simple species of terns found in Siberia is common terns. It nests on sandy and stony beaches and grassy islets.
Gulls are the main objects of ornithological studies. At the Scientific-Research Institute of Biology of Irkutsk State University for 25 years about 100 thous. gulls have been ringed, the majority of them (67 thous.) are young herring gulls. This is the biggest species of gulls occurring on Baikal. It feeds not only on fish, but other various food. Wintering grounds of these species are in Eastern Asia.
The boundary lies at an altitude from 1500 to 1800 and more m above sea level.
There were encountered the cedar at the age of 550 years old and larch - 530 years old. The cedar at this age continued bearing.