Ecosulis scientific advisor co-authors paper on saline lakes

Posted by Daniel Allen on 7/01/2021


As a lead author for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Dr. Alan Feest has co-authored a recently published paper on saline lakes in Europe and Central Asia. The recommendations it contains could lead to improved conservation measures.       


Dr. Alan Feest, scientific advisor at Ecosulis, is a world leader in the measurement of biodiversity. He developed the Biodiversity Quality Calculator (BQC), a unique, adaptable and highly specialised tool which accurately measures change in biodiversity quality and helps to improve decision making about land management and habitat restoration. The BQC has already been employed on a wide range of Ecosulis projects.


Alan is also a longstanding lead author for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an intergovernmental organisation for assessing the state of the planet's biodiversity, its ecosystems and the essential services they provide to society. In this capacity he has co-authored a new paper on saline lakes in Europe and Central Asia.


Recently published in Inland Waters, the official journal of the International Society of Limnology, the paper reviews the past, current and future ecosystem and biodiversity trends of inland saline lakes in Europe and Central Asia.


Saline lakes, which have a salinity more than 10 percent that of seawater, are common landscape features and exist on every continent. The Asian steppes and neighbouring semi-arid regions contain many of the world's saline lakes - some are large and permanent, such as the Caspian and Aral seas, and Lakes Balkhash, Issyk-Kul, Chany, Alakul and Tengiz - while others are small and temporary.


"Although trends for smaller saline lakes vary, our analysis demonstrates that land use change, overexploitation and pollution are more important direct drivers of ecosystem health and biodiversity than climate change," says Alan. "Nevertheless, the ongoing effect of climate change means that the trends identified in the paper are, on average, only likely to increase going forwards."


The Aral Sea, a saline body of water shared by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, began shrinking in the 1960s and had largely dried up by the 2010s.


Despite their stepping-stone geographic distribution, the global volume of saline lake water (24,950 cubic miles, or 104,000 cubic kilometres) is almost as great as that of the world's freshwater (29,989 cubic miles, or 125,000 cubic kilometres). Many, such as the Aral Sea (which has shrunk to around one-tenth of its former size), have been severely degraded as a result of human intervention and are now recovering slowly. 


"While saline lakes are often considered less valuable than freshwater lakes, they are important from both an ecological and commercial (fishing) perspective," says Alan. "There is now an urgent need to develop a framework to classify and evaluate the ecological quality and ecosystem services of saline lakes along a water salinity gradient. This can then guide conservation-related decision making and policy."


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