Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: Rapid degradation of the world's large lakes

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  • Jean Philippe Jenny, Universite de Savoie
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  • Orlane Anneville, Universite de Savoie
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  • Fabien Arnaud, Universite de Savoie
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  • Yoann Baulaz, Universite de Savoie
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  • Damien Bouffard, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
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  • Isabelle Domaizon, Universite de Savoie
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  • Serghei A. Bocaniov, University of Waterloo
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  • Nathalie Chèvre, University of Lausanne
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  • Maria Dittrich, University of Toronto
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  • Jean Marcel Dorioz, Universite de Savoie
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  • Erin S. Dunlop, Ontario Ministry of the Environment
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  • Gaël Dur, Shizuoka University
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  • Jean Guillard, Universite de Savoie
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  • Thibault Guinaldo, Universite de Toulouse
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  • Stéphan Jacquet, Universite de Savoie
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  • Aurélien Jamoneau, Irstea
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  • Zobia Jawed, McMaster University
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  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Gail Krantzberg, McMaster University
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  • John Lenters, Michigan Technological University, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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  • Barbara Leoni, University of Milan - Bicocca
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  • Michel Meybeck, Sorbonne Université
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  • Veronica Nava, University of Milan - Bicocca
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  • Tiina Nõges, Estonian University of Life Sciences
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  • Peeter Nõges, Estonian University of Life Sciences
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  • Martina Patelli, University of Milan - Bicocca
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  • Victoria Pebbles, Great Lakes Commission
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  • Marie Elodie Perga, University of Lausanne
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  • Serena Rasconi, Universite de Savoie
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  • Carl R. Ruetz, Grand Valley State University
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  • Lars Rudstam, Cornell University
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  • Nico Salmaso, Istituto Agrario San Michele all'Adige
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  • Sharma Sapna, York University Toronto
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  • Dietmar Straile, University of Konstanz
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  • Olga Tammeorg, Estonian University of Life Sciences, University of Helsinki
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  • Michael R. Twiss, Clarkson University
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  • Donald G. Uzarski, Central Michigan University
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  • Anne Mari Ventelä, Pyhäjärvi Institute
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  • Warwick F. Vincent, Universite Laval
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  • Steven W. Wilhelm, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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  • Sten Åke Wängberg, University of Gothenburg
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  • Gesa A. Weyhenmeyer, Uppsala University

Large lakes of the world are habitats for diverse species, including endemic taxa, and are valuable resources that provide humanity with many ecosystem services. They are also sentinels of global and local change, and recent studies in limnology and paleolimnology have demonstrated disturbing evidence of their collective degradation in terms of depletion of resources (water and food), rapid warming and loss of ice, destruction of habitats and ecosystems, loss of species, and accelerating pollution. Large lakes are particularly exposed to anthropogenic and climatic stressors. The Second Warning to Humanity provides a framework to assess the dangers now threatening the world's large lake ecosystems and to evaluate pathways of sustainable development that are more respectful of their ongoing provision of services. Here we review current and emerging threats to the large lakes of the world, including iconic examples of lake management failures and successes, from which we identify priorities and approaches for future conservation efforts. The review underscores the extent of lake resource degradation, which is a result of cumulative perturbation through time by long-term human impacts combined with other emerging stressors. Decades of degradation of large lakes have resulted in major challenges for restoration and management and a legacy of ecological and economic costs for future generations. Large lakes will require more intense conservation efforts in a warmer, increasingly populated world to achieve sustainable, high-quality waters. This Warning to Humanity is also an opportunity to highlight the value of a long-term lake observatory network to monitor and report on environmental changes in large lake ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Volume46
Issue4
Pages (from-to)686-702
Number of pages17
ISSN0380-1330
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

    Research areas

  • Biodiversity loss, Ecosystem services, Eutrophication, Global change, Large lakes, Second Warning to Humanity

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