Lake Baikal (Russia) is the largest (by volume) and deepest lake on Earth. The lake remains relatively pristine due to the low population density around its basin. Being very distant from any marine water body but having a remarkable number of similarities to oceans (depth, oxygen content, oligotrophy) provides a unique model of pelagic microbiota that is submitted to marine-like conditions minus the salt content of the water. It is also a model of lakes located at high latitudes and submitted to yearly ice cover (from January to April). The analysis by different approaches has indeed provided a view of the microbiota of this lake. It contains novel microbes that are closely related to marine groups not known to be present in freshwater like Chloroflexi or Pelagibacter. The deep water mass contains large communities of chemolithotrophs that use ammonia generated in the photic zone or methane from the sediments. KEY POINTS: • The chemical composition and limnic features of the deepest lake on Earth determine the vital activity of microorganisms. • The diversity, ecology, and role of individual taxa of microorganisms were studied using cultivation and molecular methods. • Data of large metagenomic datasets in the epipelagic and bathypelagic layers of the water column in southern Baikal were discussed.
Keywords: Freshwater microbiome; Lake microbiome; Lake preservation; Metagenomics.