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The science of the life and conditions for life in lakes, ponds, and streams.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the science that studies inland bodies of water with a slow water exchange (lakes and reservoirs) and the interrelated physical, chemical, and biological processes occurring in them. Limnology is one of the geographic sciences. In studying bodies of water, limnology uses the methods of hydrobiology, hydrochemistry, hydrophysics, geomorphology, geobotany, meteorology, and other sciences.

The main task of limnology is integrated research on the development of bodies of water and on the geological, physical, chemical, and biological processes whose interaction in bodies of water and their drainage systems determines the particular features of lakes and reservoirs and their regime. To this end, limnology studies the origin, dimensions, structure, and transformation of the basins and shores of bodies of water; the structure and composition of the bottom deposits; the physical and chemical properties of the water masses formed in the drainage area and in the body of water itself; the structure and dynamics of the water masses; the water and thermal balance of bodies of water; fluctuations in water level; water movement, including wave motion, currents, wind drifts, seiche, and the convective and dynamic mixing of water; and thermal and ice conditions. Limnology also studies the composition, concentration, and balance of suspended and dissolved mineral and organic matter; the seasonal cycles in the development and interaction of water organisms, such as plankton, benthos and nekton; the productivity of aquatic communities and their role in transforming the organic matter in bodies of water; and the influence of lakes and reservoirs on the drainage process. In addition to studying the large and economically important lakes and reservoirs, limnologists have done important work in describing and classifying the numerous small bodies of water.

Data on the stratigraphy of lake deposits and fluctuations in lake levels are used for studying climatic changes and the hydrologic cycles in earlier periods, as well as other questions of general physical geography. Limnology uses material obtained from observations made on expeditions and at lake stations, posts, and hydrometeorological observatories. Also employed are aerial, surveying; electrometric, photometric, isotopic, and other precise research methods; interdisciplinary (hydrological, hydrochemical, and hydrobiological) surveying of lakes and reservoirs; and physical and mathematical modeling of the processes occurring in bodies of water.

The founder of limnology was the Swiss scientist F. Forel, who conducted long-term studies, chiefly of Lake Geneva, and who wrote the first handbook on limnology in 1901. Important contributions to the development of limnology have been made by the Russian scientists D. N. Anuchin, L. S. Berg, G. Iu. Vereshchagin, S. I. Kuznetsov, I. V. Molchanov, S. D. Muraveiskii, and L. L. Rossolimo and by the foreign scientists E. Berge, A. Thienemann, E. Naumann, W. Halbfass, F. Ruttner, C. H. Mortimer, and G. E. Hutchinson.

Theoretical and applied problems of limnology are being worked out in research institutes and laboratories in more than 40 countries. In the USSR important work is being done at the Limnology Institute and the Institute for the Biology of Inland Waters of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Limnology Institute of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the State Hydrological Institute and the Hydrochemical Institute (GUGMS), and the institutes and laboratories of several ministries and universities. Limnological research is published in special collections and journals, notably Izvestiia Vsesoiuznogo geograficheskogo ob-va (Proceedings of the All-Union Geographic Society, published since 1865), Meteorologiia i gidrologiia (Meteorology and Hydrology, since 1950), Gidrobiologicheskii zhurnal (Hydrobiological Journal; Kiev, since 1969), Limnology and Oceanography (Baltimore, since 1956), and Archiv für Hydrobiologie (Stuttgart, since 1906). International limnological congresses and symposiums have played an important role in the development of limnology. They have been convened regularly since 1922 by the International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology. The third (1925) and 18th (1971) congresses were held in the USSR. Symposiums on lake hydrology are also organized by the International Association of Hydrological Sciences. The biological approach that predominated in limnology for a long time is giving way to interdisciplinary research. The balance principle has been accepted in studying the conversion of matter and energy in a body of water. This principle has played a crucial role in working out recommendations for the most efficient use of lakes and reservoirs and for predicting potential changes in hydrological, hydrochemical, and biological conditions caused by the use of these bodies of water. The achievements of limnology are used in a number of economic sectors, including water supply, fisheries, water transport, hydraulic power engineering, irrigation, the mining of minerals, and medicine, as well as in organizing recreation for the working people. Because of the pollution of lakes and reservoirs and their growing eutrophication, limnology has begun to focus on problems of evaluating, predicting, and protecting the quality of water in lakes and reservoirs.


Forel, F. A. Rukovodstvo po ozerovedeniiu. St. Petersburg, 1912. (Translated from German.)
Berg, L. S. “Sovremennoe sostoianie i zadachi ozerovedeniia ν SSSR.” Izv. AN SSSR: Ser. geologicheskaia, 1945, no 1.
Lepneva, S. G. “Zhizn’ ν ozerakh.” In Zhizn’presnykh vod SSSR, vol. 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Bogoslovskii, B. B. Ozerovedenie. Moscow, 1960.
Zaikov, B. D. Ocherki po ozerovedeniiu, parts 1–2. Leningrad, 1955–60.
Muraveiskii, S. D. Reki i ozera. Moscow, 1960.
Hutchinson, G. E. Limnologiia. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from English.)
Welch, P. S. Limnology, 2nd ed. New York-Toronto-London, 1953.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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