Khuvsgul Lake and Taiga Forest
WHERE/WHAT IS KHUVSGUL LAKE?
The highlight of northern Mongolia is the famous Khuvsgul Lake and the taiga forest. Often called "Mother Ocean", Khuvsgul Lake is a growing lake created by the plate rifting among the snow-capped mountains. The higher altitude and permafrost allow few species to survive including yaks, reindeers, moose and musk deer.
The Aimag is largely mountainous. The south and southwest are dominated by the round-topped Tarvagatai, Bulnain and Erchim sub-ranges of the Khangai massif. The areas west and north of Lake Khövsgöl are formed by the alpine Khoridol Saridag, Ulaan Taiga, and Mönkh Saridag mountains. The center and east are less mountainous, but still hilly.
Within Mongolia, the region is well known for its natural environment, and Lake Khövsgöl is one of the country's major tourist attractions. The largest forest areas of Mongolia are located around and to the north of the lake, extending the south-Siberian Taiga.
The aimag was founded in 1931. Khatgal was the administrative center until 1933, since then it has been Mörön.
Lake Khövsgöl is the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia by volume and second-largest by area. It is located near the northern border of Mongolia, about 200 km (124 mi) west of the southern end of Lake Baikal. It is nicknamed the "Younger sister" of those two "sister lakes".
Physiography - Lake Khuvsgul is located in the northwest of Mongolia near the Russian border, at the foot of the eastern Sayan Mountains. It is 1,645 meters (5,397 feet) above sea level, 136 kilometers (85 miles) long and 262 meters (860 feet) deep. It is the second-most voluminous freshwater lake in Asia and holds almost 70% of Mongolia's freshwater and 0.4% of all the freshwater in the world. The town of Hatgal is at the southern end of the lake.
The lake is surrounded by several mountain ranges. The highest mountain is the Bürenkhaan / Mönkh Saridag (3,492 meters (11,457 feet)), which has its peak north of the lake exactly on the Russian-Mongolian border. The surface of the lake freezes over completely in winter. The ice cover in winter is strong enough to carry heavy trucks; transport routes were installed on its surface as shortcuts to the normal roads. However, this practice is now forbidden to prevent pollution of the lake from both oil leaks and trucks breaking through the ice. It is estimated that 30-40 vehicles have sunk into the lake over the years.
There is a roughly elliptical-shaped island in the middle of the lake, named Wooden Boy Island,
measuring 3 km east-west and 2 km north-south. It is located about
11 km from the lake's eastern shore, and 50 km north of the town of Hatgal.
Climate - Khatgal experiences a subarctic climate with very long, very dry, frigid winters and short, cool, relatively wet summers. Sunshine is abundant year-round and is especially high during the winter for a location above the 50th parallel north. The annual temperature ranges from -22°F (−30 °C) to 65.3°F (18.5 °C)
Ecological significance - Khuvsgul is one of seventeen ancient lakes in the world, being more than 2 million years old, and the most pristine (apart from Lake Vostok), as well as being the most significant drinking water reserve of Mongolia. Its water is potable without any treatment. Hovsgol is an ultraoligotrophic lake with low levels of nutrients, primary productivity and high water clarity (Secchi depths > 18 m are common). Hovsgol's fish community is species-poor compared to that of Lake Baikal. Species of commercial and recreational interest include Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis), burbot (Lota lota), lenok (Brachymystax lenok), and the endangered endemic Hovsgol grayling (Thymallus nigrescens). Though endangered by poaching during its spawning runs, the Hovsgol grayling is still abundant throughout much of the lake.
The Lake area is a National Park bigger than Yellowstone and strictly protected as a transition zone between Central Asian Steppe and the Siberian Taiga. Despite Hovsgol's protected status, illegal fishing is common and prohibitions against commercial fishing with gillnets are seldom enforced. The lake is traditionally considered sacred in a land suffering from arid conditions where most lakes are salty.
The Park is home to a variety of wildlife such as ibex, argali, elk, wolf, wolverine, musk deer, brown bear, Siberian moose, and sable.
The Hövsgöl (Khövsgöl) Long-term Ecological Research Site (LTERS) was established in 1997 and an extensive research program began soon thereafter. Now part of an international network of the long-term study sites, the Hövsgöl LTERS provides a stage for nurturing Mongolia's scientific and environmental infrastructures, studying climate change, and developing sustainable responses to some of the environmental challenges facing the lake and its watershed.
Recent studies have identified high levels of plastic pollution (esp. microplastics)
in the lake, showing that even small rural populations can cause high plastics pollution levels, as high as elsewhere around the world.