Snowfall on the Selenga River Delta, Russian Federation
This astronaut photograph from the International Space Station illustrates the Selenga River Delta built out into Lake Baikal in Russia.
The Selenga River delta (image center) is lobate in form, with an intricate network of distributary channels and levees surrounded by marshlands building out into Lake Baikal. This suggests that development of the delta is governed by the sediment load carried by the river, and any modifications of form due to lake tides or waves are relatively minor. Further out, dark brown depositional bars are visible forming a rough arc marking the edge of the delta. Snow cover on the river floodplain highlights numerous secondary channels, as well as channels previously occupied by the river but now abandoned. The regular outlines of agricultural fields to the southwest and northeast of the river are also highlighted by the snow cover.
Lake Baikal is a World Heritage Site. The Selenga River is the major contributor of water to Lake Baikal; it occupies approximately 82% of the watershed area for the lake. The wetlands of the Selenga River delta are designated as a RAMSAR site and provide valuable habitat for more than 170 species of birds, including many migrating species. Like Baikal, the Selenga Delta is home to unique ecosystems, including more than 70 rare or endangered species of plants and animals.
Waters of the Selenga River serve many (and differing) uses in both Mongolia and Russia, including support of agriculture, provision of drinking water, light industry, mining, recreation, and tourism. These uses also contribute to degradation of the river water quality, downstream availability of water, and ecological impacts. For example, a pulp and paper plant in the city of Selenginsk (image lower left) has been tied to high levels of pollution in the river. International efforts to integrate management of the Selenga River basin for both ecological and economic sustainability are ongoing.