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The true age of Europe's oldest lake has now been determined

The study, published in the journal Eos, was carried out by an international team with an important contribution given by researchers from the University of Pisa

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lago di OhridIt is younger than it was thought to be, even though its age, more than a million years old, is still remarkable. The lake in question is Lake Ohrid, Europe's oldest lake, which lies on the border between Albania and Macedonia. The exact age was calculated by an international team, including a group of Italian academics led by Giovanni Zanchetta, a researcher from the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Pisa, and made up of experts from the Institutes of Environmental Geology and Geoengineering (CNR-IGAG) of Rome and Geosciences and Georesources (CNR-IGG) of Pisa, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) of Pisa and Rome and the Universities of Bari and La Sapienza of Rome. The research began in 2013 with a deep drilling campaign on five sites of the lake. The first results which emerged from the analyses of the extracted sediment (more than 2km of cores now conserved at the University of Cologne in Germany) were disclosed in 2014 in an article in the international journal Eos.

"Our aim" explained Giovanni Zanchetta "was to reach the sediment at the bottom of the lake basin by deep drilling and to reconstruct the biological and climate history of the area. The wealth of data which emerged allowed us to indicate for the first time the approximate age of the lake, more than a million years old, and to put forward some preliminary hypotheses about the formation of the endemic fauna of the basin."

On a scientific level, Lake Ohrid is the lake which hosts the greatest number of endemic species in the world – 212 species of animals and plants have been catalogued – so many that in 1979 the lake was nominated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"The sediments inside the cores" added Giovanni Zanchetta "also provided a fundamental archive for the reconstruction of the history of volcanic activity in Italy, its aerial dispersion and the potential environmental impact, data which is also fundamental in a more practical perspective, in case of future eruptions."

The study coordinated by the researcher of the University of Pisa and in part co-financed by the International Continental Drilling Project (ICDP) is part of SCOPSCO ("Scientific Collaboration on Past Speciation Conditions in Lake Ohrid"), a four-year international project which began in 2009.

  • 29 September 2014

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