Image of people standing in front of a mountain lake.

Enlarge (credit: Layland Masuda)

Not for nothing, but when it comes to bodies of water and climate change, the ocean gets the (sea) lion’s share of attention. But on land, around 117 million admittedly smaller bodies of water play necessary ecological, social, and economic roles. Lakes are relatively tiny, but “relative” is a key term there—for instance, the Great Lakes of North America account for 20 percent of the Earth’s surface freshwater. We also rely on them for food, fresh water, transportation, and more.

New research identifies the interrelated challenges that the world’s lakes face. According to Sapna Sharma, co-author of the research and an associate professor of York University’s biology department, many of the climate change-related impacts that these watering holes remain relatively hidden despite these waters potentially facing an extensive collection of problems. “I hope that people get a sense of how widespread the effects of climate change on lakes are,” she told Ars. “If you just go look out at a lake, you might not know all the changes it’s experiencing.”

To study this, Sharma and colleagues at different universities around the world pored over hundreds of research papers about lakes. These papers came from across the globe, and some date back to the 1930s, she said. Sharma and her fellow researchers all have differing areas of expertise, allowing them to review and synthesize the existing literature.

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