Saline lakes occur on all continents. Lying in hydrologi-cally closed basins where evaporation exceeds local precipitation, their size and salinity varies markedly and they are particularly susceptible to climatic variations and water diversions. Aquatic biota from microbes to invertebrates to fish and birds frequent these environments and can attain spectacular numbers. While modern scientific techniques are increasingly being applied to a few saline lakes, many are in remote locations and require exploratory sampling as a first step, often with surprising findings. For example, a trans-Saharan expedition discovered isolated villagers eating cakes of an alga called Spirulina that has led to an aquaculture industry.
Since 1979 a series of eight international symposia on inland saline lakes have served to strengthen and expand the scope of scientific understanding and foster a worldwide cadre of researchers. While distinctive because of their chemical conditions and biota, all ecological processes occur in saline lakes and they provide an excellent system in which to observationally and experimentally examine these processes. A treatise by Ted Hammer and synthetic reviews by several others offer comprehensive information about these diverse and fascinating environments. This is especially important because inland saline waters are threatened in many regions by diversion of their inflows and economic development.
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