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Lake Profile


General Information

Description Lake Vanern is the largest lake in Sweden and the fourth largest lake of Europe. The lake has more than 100 tributaries.
Country Sweden
Latitude 59° 0' 0" (59.0000)
Longitude 13° 30' 0" (13.5000)

Physical Characteristics

Description Lake Vanern drains into the Kattegat (the Atlantic) via the Gota River. Vanern's origins are glacial and tectonic.
Volume 153.00 km3
Surface Area 5,648.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 27.0 m
Maximum depth: 106.0 m
Residence Time 9.0 years
Age 0 - 10,000 years before present
Trophic State Oligotrophic
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 46,800.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 8:1


Economic Value For centuries Lake Vänern was an all-important link in transport and travel. The lake is still a main transportation route.
Major Cities

Watershed Management

Description Under new inland water legislation passed in 1993, Sweden now separates professional and non-professional fisheries management. Recreational fishing is managed mainly by gear limitations.

The management of Swedish inland and coastal fisheries is based on long term research and development work coordinated by the National Board of Fisheries. The Board is working to investigate, protect and rehabilitate the original Swedish freshwater crayfish and has an action plan for protecting inland water biodiversity and promoting sustainability. Biodiversity in stream populations has been studied and negative effects on biodiversity were found in acidified waters and waters with extensive hydroelectric power development.

The Lake Vanern Society for Water Conservation (see links) has established a Chemicals & Hazardous Chemicals Project. The use of chemicals in various operations conducted around the shores of the lake is being reviewed and, where appropriate, concrete proposals for the use of more environmentally acceptable alternatives are being put forward.

Issues A chlor-alkaline plant caused serious mercury contamination of water, sediments and fish in the 1980's. There is also some zinc and cadmium pollution to the lake from pulp mills. Thanks to reductions in operating pulp mills, organic matter levels in the lake have been reduced significantly. Phosphorus levels have also dropped since 1980 and the current management goal is to keep them at existing levels.

About 75% of the water from tributaries passes through areas of archipelago islands before reaching open water, resulting in some localized aras of pollution around closely-spaced islands.

Other Issues Acidification
Nutrient pollution
Specific Contaminants Industrial
POPs/PCPs/Endocrine Disrupters
Monitoring Programs In-Lake
Water Quality

Water Quality

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Lake Vanern has the most species-rich fish fauna in Sweden. 34 species reproduce in either the lake or its tributaries. The lake is home to huge numbers of waterfowl and seabirds. Thirty species of birds breed near the lake.

Since a growing number of the pulp mills have closed down, there has been a successive improvement in the abundance and diversity of bottom fauna. Sadly, most spawning and growth habitat for salmon have been destroyec and natural reproduction is almost non-existent.

Species of Concern Species that are under acute threat include naturally spawning salmon and salmon trout (salmon and salmon trout from the Gullspångsälv and Klarälv rivers, and salmon trout from the Tidan) and, among waterfowl, the Caspian tern and turnstone.



Crop Explorer - Global Reservoir and Lake Elevation Monitoring
Crop Explorer - Lake Level Variations from TOPEX/POSEIDON and Jason-1 Altimetry for Vanern
ILEC Database
Lake Vanern Society for Water Conservation
The Baltic Sea region from above

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission
International Lake Environment Committee, the United Nations Environment Program and Environment Agency, Government of Japan. 1997. World Lakes Database.
Taub, F.B. (ed.). 1984. Ecosystems of the World 23: Lakes & Reservoirs. Elsevier. New York.

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