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How to Save Lake Baikal from Spirogyra: Initial Results of Recent Studies

In the spring of 2016, the Fund "Revival of the Siberian land" and Oleg Deripaska's company En+ Group started a joint project, "The Baikal expedition." It is devoted to the study of filamentous green algae of the genus Spirogyra.

In recent years, Spirogyra actively have reproduced in the lake and significantly degraded the water quality. Mikhail Grachev, the Director of the Limnological Institute of the Siberian branch of RAS, explained in an interview that this seaweed has always lived in the lake, but in small quantities. He went on to say, "but now there are a lot of it, especially in the areas of tourist camps and villages where are located commercial facilities."

The main danger of the reproduction of Spirogyra is the possible disappearance of some endemic species.

The most dangerous thing, according to scientists, is that up to 60% of these unique living organisms live in the narrow coastal zone where Spirogyra settled. According to experts, sources of pollution in the water of the lake are first and foremost the people themselves. The people living on the shores of Lake Baikal and tourists whose numbers grow each year are to blame. Treating facilities in towns and at camps are either nonexistent or do not meet the necessary requirements to abet. Liquid wastes containing nitrogen compound and phosphorus enter coastal waters and promote the growth of algae. Today, the Foundation Program, which struggles against this dangerous phenomenon, includes three areas: education, research and practical action.

People who come to Lake Baikal and the locals are unaware of how much damage Spirogyra can cause the lake ecology and the Baikal region. It is imperative to explain to people how their activity can affect the lake ecosystem and it is becoming necessary for people to change their behavior. It is recommended to refuse the usage of phosphate containing washing powders, to establish control over the cleaning plants, and to minimize domestic wastes. For these reasons, the environmental organizations of the Irkutsk region reached the same conclusion. During the year 2016, classes were conducted and discussions with tourists, owners of tourist camps, and residents of coastal areas of the Baikal were had.

During the expedition, the algae were also studied. The studies that were conducted on algae were taken near the village Maksimikha. The experiments underwent about 200 kg of Spirogyra.
"We started several experiments at the same time," states the head of the project, Marina Rikhvanova, "two experiments based on the schools in the village Turka and in the village Maloye Goloustnoye: can Spirogyra and other algae from bays be used as fertilizer for potatoes."
Landscape Designer Elena Yakimova conducted an experiment on growing tomatoes using Spirogyra as a mulch material. She did this by covering the soil with algae to protect and improve the soil's properties. The results of all experiments without distinction were unequivocally that Spirogyra can be quite an efficient fertilizer. "If we could adjust the production of organic fertilizer from algae – this would be beneficial for the soil and for local residents, and for products grown using Spirogyra, and for Lake Baikal, because this biomass will not return back in it," declares Marina Rikhvanova.

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Experiments on using Spirogyra were not limited by testing only useful properties for soil. For example, algae were used to make a design paper. One which could be used as material for decorative covers and containers. This project was awarded at the contest "No Spirogyra on the Baikal!" The contest was organized by EN + Group and the School of Environmental Entrepreneurship.
 

President of the charity fund "Revival of the Siberian land" Elena Tvorogova, summing up the first Baikal expedition said: "Spirogyra - is a healthy reaction of the Baikal to transfer of excessive amount of minerals in it. Therefore, we need no to fight against Spirogyra, but we need to build sewage cleaning plants, and, most importantly, to teach tourists and people who live on the lake, to use phosphate-free detergents. Spirogyra on the Baikal - it's a big, complex problem, where everyone can take part to solve it."

In the future ecologists of the region are planning to use international experience in the fight against algae in the Baikal. The most famous example of this environmental work is the salvation of Japan's largest lake Biwa. It was so dirty, that because of the bloom of planktonic algae there were red tides in the country, and the locals began to have serious health problems. Housewives organized public action "soap movement" and convinced people to refuse of using of phosphate-containing powders, and the government entered the state ban on its manufacture and importation. Currently, transfer of nutrients  to the lake is minimal and ecosystem of the water is restoring.

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