The water level in the Caspian Sea may have fallen between 9 and 18 meters at the end of this century. German and Dutch scientists have calculated this, Utrecht University reports on Tuesday. The large drop in the water level has enormous consequences for ecosystems and can also cause tension between neighboring countries.
The Caspian Sea is the largest inland lake in the world at 371,000 square kilometers and is completely enclosed by land. Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan border it. The lake contains salt water and the water level has been dropping a few inches annually since the 1990s.
This decline will only continue faster in the coming decades, calculated Dutch earth scientist Frank Wesselingh of Utrecht University together with researchers from the universities of the German cities of Giessen and Bremen.
The water level is falling faster and faster due to increased evaporation and the increasing lack of sea ice in the winters. This has consequences for “the unique ecosystem on site, with migratory birds, sturgeons and the only occurring Caspian seal, which gets its pups on the ice”, the study concludes.
“This is about 9 meters – in the most optimistic scenario,” says Wesselingh. In the worst case scenario, the water level will drop by 18 meters at the end of the century, causing the Caspian Sea to lose a third of its surface.
The fall in sea levels can also create tensions in the region. Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan must make new agreements about fishing rights and land borders with a lower sea level.
The scientists are calling for an international task force to address emerging problems in good time, led by the United Nations climate program.