Monday, October 19, 2015

Swelling lake threatens endangered wildlife, infrastructure

A major salt lake on northwest China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has more than tripled in size for years due to climate change, posing a threat to local infrastructure and animals living nearby.

The surface of Hoh Xil Lake grows from 45.89 square km in 2011 to the current 150.41 square km, the Qinghai Institute of Meteorological Science said.

It is located in Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, home to several endangered species including Tibetan antelopes and wild yaks.

"The lake's expansion will erode lakeside grassland and probably damage some nearby communication and transportation facilities," said Wang Hailin of the reserve's management bureau.

Though there has been no indication yet of damage to the habitats of antelopes and birds, the risks are mounting, he said.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest, is also threatened, as the distance between the lake and the track has been shortened from 12 to nine km.

Experts say the expansion of the lake is a result of the thawing of glaciers and increased rainfall under the influence of global warming.

Major lakes in the reserve, including Zhuonai, Qusay and Hoh Xil, are all holding water at historically high levels.

Following a dike breach in 2011, water has flown from Zhuonai Lake and fed into Qusay Lake. The latter's overflow has resulted in swelling of the salt lake downstream, said Liu Baokang, engineer with the Qinghai institute.

Local authorities have been closely monitoring the expansion of the lake, and are planning to counter it by building dams and diverting water.

 Xinhua -

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