THE IRKUTSK SCIENTIFIC CENTER
LIMNOLOGICAL INSTITUTE SB RAS
Director – Academician of RAS Mikhail A. Grachev, USSR State Prize Winner.
Limnological Institute traces its roots back to the Lake Baikal Limnological Station founded on October 1, 1928, which became the first scientific institution within the Academy of Sciences to be established in Siberia. According to Decree No.49 of January 20, 1961, the Station was reorganized into Limnological Institute of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
The first Director of the Station, and later of the Institute, was Academician Grigory I. Galazy.
The main research areas of Limnological Institute are:
– limnology: mechanisms of speciation, biodiversity, and evolution of lake ecosystems;
The Institute investigates the state of the Lake Baikal ecosystem in the present and past; provides with scientific backgrounds of sustainable development of the Baikal region under the conditions of environmental limitations; studies mechanisms of speciation in Lake Baikal and evolution of endemic species associated with geological events using new approaches in genomics and proteomics; reconstructs paleoclimates in Central Asia; analyses chemical composition of Baikal water, bottom sediments and biological organisms; studies migration ways of ecotoxicants via trophic chains; analyses composition of gas impurities and aerosols in the atmosphere above Lake Baikal, and develops methods and instruments for survey of environmental components. The Institute pays special attention to development and application of new methods, as well as to accuracy of the methods and devices used.
The Institute possesses research fleet and equipment required for sampling Baikal organisms, water and bottom sediments.
In recent years, significant results have been obtained in basic research.
Multibeam echo-sounding was used to perform bathymetric survey of the bottom in the southern and central basins of the lake. A new bathymetric map is being compiled the resolution of which is 4 times higher than that of the old maps. A great number of new underwater structures have been found which elucidate underwater geology of Lake Baikal: systems of tectonic faults, buried underwater riverbeds, wash-out areas of subrecent bottom sediments by undercurrents (in particular, on the Akademichesky Ridge), landslides, and underwater mud volcanoes.
New areas of gas hydrate occurrence have been discovered in the surface sediment layers of Lake Baikal. Discharges of massive transparent layers of gas hydrates (over 1 m thick) contacting with the water have been recorded in some areas of the lake with the help of deepwater manned submersibles “MIR”. Elevated density of invertebrate communities has been registered in the methane discharge areas, their abundance being 10–25 times higher compared to that in the background areas of Lake Baikal. Life activity of the communities occurs due to the involvement of methane carbon in the food chain via methanotrophic bacteria, as well as to high biomass of cryptophyte flagellates and cyanobacteria.
Carbon dioxide flux has been measured at the “atmosphere–water column” interface. In spring, despite the maximal development of diatom phytoplankton, carbon-dioxide flux is directed into the atmosphere. In the summer-autumn period, carbon dioxide sinks to the water surface of the lake due to the intensity of photosynthesis carried out by photosynthesizing picoplankton. The lake surface area is regarded as a sink for carbon dioxide.
Limnological Institute, in collaboration with Rosgidromet of the Russian Federation, participates in the International Programme “Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia (EANET)” as a national centre for data accumulation. As a result of international qualification tests on precision and accuracy of analyses performed, Laboratory of Hydrochemistry and Atmospheric Chemistry of the Institute was selected as one of the principal investigators of chemical composition of snow, firn and ice cores sampled at Station Vostok (Antarctica).
Significant results have been obtained in paleoclimatology on synchronism and phase balance of climate humidity oscillations in the catchment basins of Lake Baikal and the Amur River. The Institute continues to perform survey in Lake Hovsgol ( Mongolia) and started to investigate sediments in the permafrost region of the Arctic lakes on Taimyr Peninsula.
Full genome and metagenome surveys have been started at the Institute: genomes of several strains of the tick-borne encephalitis virus of different geographic origins have been read; the interaction between mutations in some virus genes has been established taking into account the disease severity caused by this virus. Three genomes of a sponge mitochondrial DNA and a genome of a diatom mitochondrial DNA have been read. The first results have been obtained in the full genome survey of a diatom Synedra acus.
Amino-acid sequences of silicatein, important protein components of sponge spicules, were for the first time determined by means of two-dimensional electrophoresis and mass-spectrometry.
Nucleotide sequences of 16S rRNA gene of tens of thousands of Baikal microorganisms sampled at the sites of methane hydrate discharges and from biofilms have been obtained using metagenome analysis.
Methods of full genome analysis and subtraction hybridisation have been used to investigate the first stage of speciation of Baikal omul Comephorus migratorius Georgi and a lacustrine whitefish. These are fishes possessing insignificant morphological distinctions but differing in size and spawning areas. Transcription analysis has revealed essential differences in transcription levels of genes of the central nervous system. This is likely to be attributed to behaviour distinctions of these fishes.
Researchers of the Institute continue to study biodiversity of Lake Baikal; three genera and 68 species have been identified as new to science. Twelve monographs have been published within the series of “Guides and Keys to Identification of Fauna and Flora of Lake Baikal”.
Diatoms which had been earlier considered as endemic species of Lake Baikal were found in 7 out of lakes 90 lakes in Pribaikalye and Transbaikalye. It is possible to hypothesize that small ancient lakes situated in the Vitim catchment area which were temporarily connected with Lake Baikal via glacial dams could have been the main source of the “endemic” diatom flora of Lake Baikal.
Researchers of the Institute have developed and tested original equipment for biological studies, devices for survey of ice cover and hydrometeorological monitoring, as well as a hardware-software system for registration of echo-sounding signal.
In 2010, Limnological Institute hosted the 10 th International Conference on Gas in Marine Sediments (GIMS10) with 126 participants from 19 countries, and the 5 th Vereshchagin Baikal Conference.
During 2006–2012, the Institute concluded six license agreements on the exploitation of the patented invention (No. 2045478) on bottling of Baikal deep water.
Researchers of the Institute have developed and tested the method of acoustic estimation of omul in combination with trawling. It was proved that it is necessary to monitor omul stocks in open waters of Lake Baikal, as about half of the entire abundance of omul estimated (42% of biomass) is located in the upper 350-m water layer of the lake pelagic zone during ice breaking.
The Institute monitors the state of the underwater cable laid to Olkhon Island and its effect on benthic communities of Baikal hydrobionts.
Researchers of Limnological Institute have developed and applied the method for extinguishing hydrolyzed lignin and city dumps. Using patented technologies, fires were extinguished in the Zima lignin storage and lignin storage at Kansk Biochemical Plant.
Environmental audit was performed at Angarsk Electrolyzed Chemical Plant (AECP). The audit made it possible to impartially estimate the effect of AECP on the environment. The Institute also evaluated the impact of the dam and turbines of the Irkutsk Hydropower Station on hydrobionts.