About Maximapedia


LAKE. Professor Forel of Switzerland, the founder of the science of limnology (Gr. Xi/ucr;, a lake), defines a lake (Lat. lacus) as a mass of still water situated in a depression of the ground, without direct communication with the sea. The term is sometimes applied to widened parts of rivers, and sometimes to bodies of water which lie along sea-coasts, even at sea-level and in direct communication with the sea. The terms pond, tarn, loch and mere are applied to smaller lakes according to size and position. Some lakes are so large that an observer cannot see low objects situated on the opposite shore, owing to the lake-surface assuming the general curvature of the earth's surface. Lakes are nearly universally distributed, but are more abundant in high than in low latitudes. They are abundant in mountainous regions, especially in those which have been recently glaciated. They are frequent along rivers which have low gradients and wide flats, where they are clearly connected with the changing channel of the river. Low lands in proximity to the sea, especially in wet climates, have numerous lakes, as, for instance, Florida. Lakes may be either fresh or salt, according to the nature of the climate, some being much more salt than the sea itself. They occur in all altitudes; Lake Titicaca in South America is 12,500 ft. above sea-level, and Yellowstone Lake in the United States is 7741 ft. above the sea; on the other hand, the surface of the Caspian Sea is 86 ft., the Sea of Tiberias 682 ft. and the Dead Sea 1292 ft. below the level of the ocean.

The primary source of lake water is atmospheric precipitation, which may reach the lakes through rain, melting ice and snow, springs, rivers and immediate run-off from the land-surfaces. The surface of the earth, with which we are directly in touch, is composed of lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere, and these interpenetrate. Lakes, rivers, the water-vapour of the atmosphere and the water of hydration of the lithosphere, must all be regarded as outlying portions of the hydrosphere, which is chiefly made up of the great oceans. Lakes may be compared to oceanic islands. Just as an oceanic island presents many peculiarities in its rocks, soil, fauna and flora, due to its isolation from the larger terrestrial masses, so does a lake present peculiarities and an individuality in its physical, chemical and biological features, owing to its position and separation from the waters of the great oceans.

Origin of Lakes. From the geological point of view, lakes may be arranged into three groups: (A) Rock- Basins, (B) Barrier- Basins and (C) Organic Basins.

A. ROCK-BASINS have been formed in several ways:

1. By slow movements of the earth's crust, during the formation of mountains; the Lake of Geneva in Switzerland and the Lake of Annecy in France are due to the subsidence or warping of part of the Alps; on the other hand, Lakes Stefanie, Rudolf Albert Nyanza, Tanganyika and Nyasa in Africa, and the Dead Sea in Asia Minor, are all believed to lie in a great rift or sunken valley.

2. By Volcanic Agencies. Crater-lakes formed on the sites of dormant volcanoes may be from a few yards to several miles in width, have generally a circular form, and are often without visible outlet. Excellent examples of such lakes are to be seen in the province of Rome (Italy) and in the central plateau of France, where M. Dejebecque found the Lake of Issarles 329 ft. in depth. The most splendid crater-lake is found on the summit of the Cascade range of Southern Oregon (U.S.A.). This lake is 2000 ft. in depth.

3. By Subsidence due to Subterranean Channels and Caves in Lime- stone Rocks. When the roofs of great limestone caves or underground lakes fall in, they produce at the surface what are called limestone sinks. Lakes similar to these are also found in regions abounding in rock-salt deposits; the Jura range offers many such lakes.

4. By Glacier Erosion. A. C. Ramsay has shown that innumerable lakes of the northern hemisphere do not lie in fissures produced by underground disturbances, nor in areas of subsidence, nor in synclinal folds of strata, but are the results of glacial erosion. Many flat alluvial plains above gorges in Switzerland, as well as in the Highlands of Scotland, were, without doubt, what Sir Archibald Geikie calls glen-lakes, or true rock-basins, which have been filled up by sand and mud brought into them by their tributary streams.

B. BARRIER-BASINS. These may be due to the following causes :

1. A landslip often occurs in mountainous regions, where strata, dipping towards the valley, rest on soft layers ; the hard rocks slip into the valley after heavy rains, damming back the drainage, which then forms a barrier-basin. Many small lakes high up in the Alps and Pyrenees are formed by a river being dammed back in this way.

2. By a Glacier. In Alaska, in Scandinavia and in the Alps a glacier often bars the mouth of a tributary valley, the stream flowing therein is dammed back, and a lake is thus formed. The best-known lake of this kind is the Marjelen Lake in the Alps, near the great Aletsch Glacier. Lake Castain in Alaska is barred by the Malaspina Glacier; it is 2 or 3 m. long and I m. in width when at its highest level ; it discharges through a tunnel 9 m. in length beneath the icesheet. The famous parallel roads of Glen Roy in Scotland are successive terraces formed along the shores of a glacial lake during the waning glacial epoch. Lake Agassiz, which during the glacial period occupied the valley of the Red River, and of which the present Lake Winnipeg is a remnant, was formed by an ice-dam along the margin of two great ice-sheets. It is estimated to have been 700 m. in length, and to have covered an area of 110,000 sq. m., thus exceeding the total area of the five great North American lakes: Superior (31,200), Michigan (22,450), Huron with Georgian Bay (23,800), Erie (9960) and Ontario (7240).

3. By the Lateral Moraine of an Actual Glacier. These lakes sometimes occur in the Alps of Central Europe and in the Pyrenees Mountains.

4. By the Frontal Moraine of an Ancient Glacier. The barrier in this case consists of the last moraine left by the retreating glacier. Such lakes are abundant in the northern hemisphere, especially in Scotland and the Alps.

5. By Irregular Deposition of Glacial Drift. After the retreat of continental glaciers great masses of glacial drift are left on the landsurfaces, but, on account of the manner in which these masses were deposited, they abound in depressions that become filled with water. Often these lakes are without visible outlets, the water frequently percolating through the glacial drift. These lakes are so numerous in the north-eastern part of North America that one can trace the southern boundary of the great ice-sheet by following the southern limit of the lake-strewn region, where lakes may be counted by tens of thousands, varying from the size of a tarn to that of the great Laurentian lakes above mentioned.

6. By Sand drifted into Dunes. It is a well-known fact that sand may travel across a country for several miles in the direction of the prevailing winds. When these sand-dunes obstruct a valley a lake may be formed. A good example of such a lake is found in Moses Lake in the state of Washington ; but the sand-dunes may also fill up or submerge river-valleys and lakes, for instance, in the Sahara, where the Shotts are like vast lakes in the early morning, and in the afternoon, when much evaporation has taken place, like vast plains of white salt.

7. By Alluvial Matter deposited by Lateral Streams. If the current of a main river be not powerful enough to sweep away detrital matter brought down by a lateral stream, a dam is formed causing a lake. These lakes are frequently met with in the narrow valleys of the Highlands of Scotland.

8. By Flows of Lava. Lakes of this kind are met with in volcanic regions.

C. ORGANIC BASINS. In the vast tundras that skirt the Arctic Ocean in both the old and the new world, a great number of frozen ponds and lakes are met with, surrounded by banks of vegetation. Snow-banks are generally accumulated every season at the same spots. During summer the growth of the tundra vegetation is very rapid, and the snow-drifts that last longest are surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. When such accumulations of snow finally melt, the vegetation on the place they occupied is much less than along their borders. Year after year such places become more and more depressed, comparatively to the general surface, where vegetable growth is more abundant, and thus give origin to lakes.

It is well known that in coral-reef regions small bays are cut off from the ocean by the growth of corals, and thus ultimately freshwater basins are formed.

Life History of Lakes. From the time of its formation a lake is destined to disappear. The historical period has not been long enough to enable man to have^atched the birth, life and death of any single lake of considerable size, still by studying the various stages of development a fairly good idea of the course they run can be obtained.

In humid regions two processes tend to the extinction of a lake, viz. the deposition of detrital matter in the lake, and the lowering of the lake by the cutting action of the outlet stream on the barrier. These outgoing streams, however, being very pure and clear, all detrital matter having been deposited in the lake, have less eroding power than inflowing streams. One of the best examples of the action of the filling-up process is presented by Lochs Doine, Voil and Lubnaig in the Callander district of Scotland. In post-glacial times these three lochs formed, without doubt, one continuous sheet of water, which subsequently became divided into three different basins by the deposition of sediment. Loch Doine has been separated from Loch Voil by alluvial cones laid down by two opposite streams. At the head of Loch Doine there is an' alluvial flat that stretches for 15 m., formed by the Lochlarig river and its tributaries. The long stretch of alluvium that separates Loch Voil from Loch Lubnaig has been laid down by Calair Burn in Glen Buckie, by the Kirkton Burn at Balquhidder, and by various streams on both sides of Strathyre. Loch Lubnaig once extended to a point m. beyond its present outlet, the level of the loch being lowered about 20 ft. by the denuding action of the river Leny on its rocky barrier.

change of climate in the direction of aridity reduced the level of the lake below the level of the outlet, the waters became gradually salt, and the former great fresh-water lake has been reduced gradually to the relatively small Great Salt Lake of the present day. The sites of extinct salt lakes yield salt in commercial quantities.

In arid regions, where the rainfall is often less than 10 ins. in the year, the action of winds in the transport of sand and dust is more in evidence than that of rivers, and the effects of evaporation greater than of precipitation. Salt and bitter lakes prevail in these regions. Many salt lakes, such as the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake, are descended from fresh-water ancestors, while others, like the Caspian and Aral Seas, are isolated portions of the ocean. Lakes of the first group have usually become salt through a decrease in the rainfall of the region in which they occur. The water begins to get salt when the evaporation from the lake exceeds the inflow. The inflowing waters bring in a small amount of saline and alkaline matter, which becomes more and more concentrated as the evaporation increases. In lakes of the second group the waters were salt at the outset. If inflow exceeds evaporation they become fresher, and may ultimately become quite fresh. If the evaporation exceeds the inflow they diminish in size, and their waters become more and more salt and bitter. The first lake which occupied the basin of the Great Salt Lake of Utah appears to have been fresh, then with a change of climate to have become a salt lake. Another change of climate taking place, the level of the lake rose until it overflowed, the outlet being by the Snake river; the lake then became fresh. This expanded lake has been called Lake Bonneville, which covered an area of about 17,000 sq. m. Another This table embraces examples of several types of salt lakes. In the Koko-nor, Aral and open Caspian Seas we have examples of the moderately salt, non-saturated waters. In the Karabugas, a branch gulf of the Caspian, Urmia and the Dead Seas we have examples of saturated waters containing principally chlorides. Lake Van is an example of the alkaline seas which also occur in Egypt, Hungary and other countries. Their peculiarity consists in the quantity of carbonate of soda dissolved in their waters, which is collected by the inhabitants for domestic and commercial purposes.

(6) Movements and Temperature of Lake-Waters. (i) In addition to the rise and fall of the surface-level of lakes due to rainfall and evaporation, there is a transference of water due to the action of wind which results in raising the level at the end to which the wind is blowing. In addition to the well-known progressive waves there are also stationary waves or " seiches " which are less apparent. A seiche is a standing oscillation of a lake, usually in the direction of the longest diameter, but occasionally transverse. In a motion of this kind every particle of the water of the lake oscillates synchronously with every other, the periods and phases being the same for all, and the orbits similar but of different dimensions and not similarly situated. Seiches were first discovered in 1730 by Fatio de Duillier, a well-known Swiss engineer, and were first systematically studied by Professor Forel in the Lake of Geneva. Large numbers of observations have been made by various observers in lakes in many parts of the world. Henry observed a fifteen-hour seiche in Lake Erie, which is 396 kilometres in length, and Endros recorded a seiche of fourteen seconds in a small pond only in metres in length. Although these waves cause periodical rising and falling of the water-level, they are generally inconspicuous, and can only be recorded by a registering apparatus, a limnograph. Standard work has been done in the study of seiches by the Lake Survey of Scotland under the immediate direction of Professor Chrystal, who has given much attention to the hydrodynamical theories of the phenomenon. Seiches are probably due to several factors acting together or separately, such as sudden variations of atmospheric pressure, changes in the strength or direction of the wind. Explanations such as lunar attraction and earthquakes have been shown to be untenable as a general cause of seiches.

2. The water temperature of lakes may change with the season from place to place and from layer to layer; these changes are brought about by insolation, by terrestrial radiation, by contract with the atmosphere, by rain, by the inflow of rivers and other factors, but the most important of all these are insolation and terrestrial radiation. Fresh water has its greatest density at a temperature of 39'2 F., so that water both above and below this temperature floats to the surface, and this physical fact largely determines the water stratification in a lake. In salt lakes the maximum density point is much lower, and does not come into play. In the tropical type of fresh-water lake the temperature is always higher than 39 F., and the temperature decreases as the depth increases. In the polar type the temperature is always lower than 39 F., and the temperature increases from the surface downwards. In the temperate type the distribution of temperature in winter resembles the polar type, and in summer the tropical type. In Loch Ness and other deep Scottish lochs the temperature in March and April is 41 to 42 F., and is then nearly uniform from top to bottom. As the Sun comes north, and the mean air temperature begins to be higher than the surface temperature, the surface waters gain heat, and this heating goes on till the month of August. About this time the mean air temperature falls below the surface temperature, and the loch begins to part with its heat by radiation and conduction. The temperature of the deeper layers beyond 300 ft. is only slightly affected throughout the whole year. In the autumn the waters of the loch are divided into two compartments, the upper having a temperature from 49 to 55 F., the deeper a temperature from 41 to 45. Between these lies the discontinuity-layer (Sprungschicht of the Germans), where there is a rapid fall of temperature within a very short distance. In August this discontinuity-layer is well marked, and lies at a depth of about 150 ft.; as the season advances this layer gradually sinks deeper, and the layer of uniform temperature above it increases in depth, and slowly loses heat, until finally the whole loch assumes a nearly uniform temperature. Many years ago Sir John Murray showed by means of temperature observations the manner in which large bodies of water were transferred from the windward to the leeward end of a loch, and subsequent observations seem to show that, before the discontinuity-layer makes its appearance, the currents produced by winds are distributed through the whole mass of the loch. When, however, this layer appears, the loch is divided into two current-systems, as shown in the following diagram :

Current systems in a loch induced by wind at the surface. (After Wedderburn.)

AB, Discontinuity layer. E, Secondary surface current.

C, Surface current. F, Secondary return current.

D, Primary return current.

Another effect of the separation of the loch into two compartments by the surface of discontinuity is to render possible the temperatureseiche. The surface-current produced by the wind transfers a large quantity of warm water to the lee end of the loch, with the result that the surface of discontinuity is deeper at the lee than at the windard end. When the wind ceases, a temperature-seiche is started, just as an ordinary seiche is started in a basin of water which has been tilted. This temperature-seiche has been studied experimentally and rendered visible by superimposing a layer of paraffin on a layer of water.

Wedderburn estimates the quantity of heat that enters Loch Ness and is given out again during the year to be approximately sufficient to raise about 30,000 million gallons of water from freezing-point to boiling-point. Lakes thus modify the climate of the region in which they occur, both by increasing its humidity and by decreasing its range of temperature. They cool and moisten the atmosphere by evaporation during summer, and when they freeze in winter a vast amount of latent heat is liberated, and moderates the fall of temperature.

Lakes act as reservoirs for water, and so tend to restrain floods, and to promote regularity of flow. They become sources of mechanical power, and as their waters are purified by allowing the sediment which enters them to settle, they become valuable sources of water-supply for towns and cities. In temperate regions small and shallow lakes are likely to freeze all over in winter, but deep lakes in similar regions do not generally freeze, owing to the fact that the low temperature of the air does not continue long enough to cool down the entire body of water to the maximum density point. Deep lakes are thus the best sources of water-supply for cities, for in summer they supply relatively cool water and in winter relatively warm water. Besides, the number of organisms in deep lakes is less than in small shallow lakes, in which there is a much higher temperature in summer, and consequently much greater organic growth. The deposits, which are formed along the shores and on the floors of lakes, depend on the geological structure and nature of the adjacent shores.

Biology. Compared with the waters of the ocean those of lakes may safely be said to contain relatively few animals and plants. Whole groups of organisms the Echinoderms, for instance are unrepresented. In the oceans there is a much greater uniformity in the physical and chemical conditions than obtains in lakes. In lakes the temperature varies widely. To underground lakes light does not penetrate, and in these some of the organisms may be blind, for example, the blind crayfish (Cambarus pellucidus) and the blind 'fish (Amblyopsis spelaeus) of the Kentucky caves. The majority of lakes are fresh, while some are so salt that no organisms have been found in them. The peaty matter in other lakes is so abundant that light does not penetrate to any great depth, and the humic acids in solution prevent the development of some species. Indeed, every lake has an individuality of its own, depending upon climate, size, nature of the bottom, chemical composition and connexion with other lakes. While the ocean contains many families and genera not represented in lakes, almost every genus in lakes is represented in the ocean.

The vertebrates, insects and flowering plants inhabiting lakes vary much according to latitude, and are comparatively well known to zoologists and botanists. The micro-fauna and flora have only recently been studied in detail, and we cannot yet be said to know much about tropical lakes in this respect. Mr James Murray, who has studied the Scottish lakes, records in over 400 Scottish lochs 724 species (the fauna including 447 species, all invertebrates, and the flora comprising 277 species) belonging to the following groups; the list must not be regarded as in any way complete :


Mollusca . : Hydrachnida . Tardigrada Insecta Crustacea Bryozoa . ... Worms Rotifera Gastrotricha . * . Coelenterata . Porifera Protozoa Flora.

7 species Phanerogamia .

65 species Equisetaceae Selaginellaceae .

Characeae .

Musci 18 .

Hepaticae Florideae Chlorophyceae .

Bacillariaceae I I Myxophyceae . Peridiniaceae These organisms are found along the shores, in the deep waters, and in the surface waters of the lakes.

The littoral region is the most populous part of lakes; the existence of a rooted vegetation is only possible there, and this in turn supports a rich littoral fauna. The greater heat of the water along the margins also favours growth. The great majority of the species in Scottish lochs are met with in this region. Insect larvae of many kinds are found under stones or among weeds. Most of the Cladocera, and the Copepoda of the genus Cyclops, and the Harpacticidae are only found in this region. Water-mites, nearly all the Rotifers, Gastrotricha, Tardigrada and Molluscs are found here, and Rhizopods are abundant. A large number of the littoral species in Loch Ness extends down to a depth of about 300 ft.

The abyssal region, in Scottish lochs, lies, as a rule, deeper than 300 ft., and in this deep region a well-marked association of animals appears in the muds on the bottom, but none of them are peculiar to it: they all extend ^nto the littoral zone, from which they were originally derived. In Loch Ness the following sparse population was recorded :

i Mollusc: Pisidium pusillum (Gmel). 3 Crustacea: Cyclops viridis, Jurine.

Candona Candida (Mull). Cypria ophthalmica, Jurine. 3 Worms : Stylodrilus gabreteae, Vejd.

Oligochaete, not determined. Automolos morgiensis (Du Plessis). I Insect: Chironomus (larva). ' Infusoria: Several, ectoparasites on Pisidium and Cyclops, not determined.

In addition, the following were found casually at great depths in Loch Ness: Hydra, Limnaea peregra, Proales daphnicola and Lynceus affinis.

The pelagic region of the Scottish lakes is occupied by numerous microscopic organisms, belonging to the Zooplankton and Phytoplankton. Of the former group 30 species belonging to the Crustacea, Rotifera and Protozoa were recorded in Loch Ness. Belonging to the second group 150 species were recorded, of which 120 were Desmids. Some of these species of plankton organisms are almost universal in the Scottish lochs, while others are quite local. Some of the species occur all the year through, while others have only been recorded in summer or in winter. The great development of Algae in the surface waters, called " flowering of the water " (Wasserbluthe), was observed in August in Loch Lomond; a distinct " flowering," due to Chlorophyceae, has been observed in shallow lochs as early as July. It is most common in August and September, but has also been observed in winter.

The plankton animals which are dominant or common, both over Scotland and the rest of Europe, are : Diaptomus gracilis. Daphnia hyalina. Diaphanosoma brachyurum. Leptodora kindtii. Conochilus unicornis. Asplanchna priodonta. Polyarthra platyptera. Anuraea cochlearis. Notholca longispina. Ceratium hirundinella. Asterionella.

All of these, according to Dr Lund, belong to the general plankton association of the European plain, or are even cosmopolitan.

The Scottish plankton on the whole differs from the plankton of the central European plateau, and from the cosmopolitan freshwater plankton, in the extraordinary richness of the Phytoplankton in species of Desmids, in the conspicuous arctic element among the Crustacea, in the absence or comparative rarity of the species commonest in the general European plankton. Another peculiarity is the local distribution of some of the Crustacea and many of the Desmids.

The derivation of the whole lacustrine population of the Scottish lochs does not seem to present any difficulty. The abyssal forms have been traced to the littoral zone without any perceptible modifications. The plankton organisms are a mingling of European and arctic species. The cosmopolitan species may enter the lochs by ordinary migration. It is probable that if the whole plankton could be annihilated, it would be replaced by ordinary migration within a few years. The eggs and spores of many species can be dried up without injury, and may be carried through the air as dust from one lake to another; others, which would not bear desiccation, might be carried in mud adhering to the feet of aquatic birds and in various other ways. The arctic species may be survivors from a period when arctic conditions prevailed over a great part of Europe. What are known as " relicts " of a marine fauna have not been found in the Scottish fresh-water lochs.

It is somewhat remarkable that none of the organisms living in fresh-water lochs has been observed to exhibit the phenomenon of phosphorescence, although similar organisms in the salt-water lochs a few miles distant exhibit brilliant phosphorescence. At similar depths in the sea-lochs there is usually a great abundance of life when compared with that found in fresh-water lochs.

Length, Depth, Area and Volume of Lakes. In the following table will be found the length, depth, area and volume of some of the principal lakes of the world. 1 Sir John Murray estimates Divergence between certain of these figures and those quoted elsewhere in this work may be accounted for by the slightly different results arrived at by various authorities.

the volume of water in the 560 Scottish lochs recently surveyed at 7 cub. m., and the approximate volume of water in all the lakes of the world at about 2000 cub. m., so that this last number is but a small fraction of the volume of the ocean, which he previously estimated at 324 million cub. m. It may be recalled that the total rainfall on the land of the globe is estimated at 29,350 cub. m., and the total discharge from the rivers of the globe at 6524 cub. m.

AUTHORITIES. F. A. Forel, " Handbuch der Scenkunde: allgemeine Limnologie," Bibliothek geogr. Handbiicher (Stuttgart, 1901), Le Leman, monographic limnologique (3 vols., Lausanne, 18921901) ; A. Delebecque, Les Lacs francais, text and plates (Paris, 1898); H. R. Mill, " Bathymetrical Survey of the English Lakes," Geogr. Journ. vol. vi. pp. 46 and 135 (1895); Jehu, " Bathymetrical and Geological Study of the Lakes of Snowdonia," Trans. Roy. Sac. Edin. vol. xl. p. 419 (1902); Sir John Murray and Laurence Pullar, " Bathymetrical Survey of the Freshwater Lochs of Scotland," Geogr. Journ. (1900 to 1908, re-issued in six volumes, Edinburgh, 1910); W. Halbfass, " Die Mprphometrie der europaischen Seen," Zeitschr. Gesell. Erdkunde Berlin (Jahrg. 1903, p. 592; 1904, p. 204); I. C. Russell, Lakes O. Zacharias, zu Plon " (Stuttgart) ; F. E. Bourcart, Les Lacs alpins suisses: etude kes of North America (Boston and London, 1895); s, " Forschungsberichte aus der biologischen Station chimique et physique (Geneva, 1906); (Milan, 1907).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR