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Lake Facts

Lakes provide habitat for bacteria, fungi, algae, plants, plankton, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. They support large numbers of threatened species and endemics (species that exist nowhere else in the world). Lake Malawi, for instance, has 500 types of cichlid fish species; 496 of these fish species exist nowhere else on earth!

Most human communities that surround lakes depend heavily on lake biodiversity and natural lake processes for their water, food and way of life. Many of the world's poorest people depend on freshwater biodiversity for their protein needs. In Malawi, Lake Malawi provides 70% to 75% of the animal protein consumed by both urban and rural communities.

In many countries, lakes supply a large proportion of the drinking water. Lake Chapala (Mexico), which has been shrinking dramatically due to water diversion for inefficient irrigation, is the main water source for five million people in Guadalajara, Mexico. Although most lakes are relatively new to earth (in geological time) there are at least 14 lakes older than one million years. For more information on ancient lakes and other lakes of interest, visit Lakes at a Glance.

Why Lakes?
Update on the World's Lakes


Kayaker on Lake Tahoe


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