Over the past 16 years, the world's largest lakes have swamped by a quarter

NASA has funded a study of 11 of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The analysis was carried out in the field and

satellite imagery to understand how large bodies of water capture carbon and how climate change affects them.

Scientists at Michigan TechnologicalResearch Institute (MTRI) studied five Great Laurentian Lakes bordering the United States and Canada, three African Great Lakes - Tanganyika, Victoria and Malawi, Lake Baikal in Russia and Great Bear and Great Slave Lake in Canada. These 11 lakes contain more than 50% of surface fresh water, which is consumed by millions of people and animals.

Two Canadian lakes and Lake Tanganyika experienced the greatest changes in primary productivity with algae growth.

The food chain in these lakes is based onalgae productivity. We measured the rate of carbon fixation, that is, the rate of photosynthesis of algae in these lakes. As this speed changes, increases or decreases, the entire lake changes.

Gary Fanenstil, MTRI Fellow and Senior Fellow, NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

These lakes are influenced by many factors.Climate change, increased nutrient levels (eutrophication) and invasive species combine to cause system-wide changes. This makes it difficult to determine the specific causes of change in large bodies of water.

One of the most notable aspects of the results is how quickly these freshwater lakes have changed — almost 20 years later.

The three largest lakes show serioustransformations due to climate change: they have swamped by 20-25% in just the last 16 years. During this time, the greatest increase in the number of algae was observed in Canadian lakes, as well as on Lake Tanganyika in southeast Africa. These trends are associated with rising water temperatures, solar radiation, and lower wind speeds.

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