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Ancient lakes: Eyes into the past, and the future

Baikal, Biwa and Bosuntwi. Maracaibo, Malawi and Matano. Tule, Tahoe and Titicaca. Ancient lakes, they're called: waterbodies more than 130,000 years old. Over their long histories, they've seen countless changes -- warming and cooling cycles, wet and dry periods, altered biology and chemistry. These age-old lakes have long tolerated the presence of humans, supporting some of the earliest known settlements and playing key roles in our cultural evolution and development. Despite covering less than 1 percent of Earth's surface area, ancient lakes contain almost half the world's fresh surface water and a large share of its freshwater biodiversity. National Science Foundation-funded researchers peered into the waters of 29 ancient lakes around the world. The lakes are dotted across almost every continent and located in areas with a range of land uses and socioeconomic conditions. Ancient lakes are threatened by invasive species, warming waters and a host of other maladies. Among the most pervasive is pollution by nutrients, usually nitrogen or phosphorus from fertilizers.

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