Distribution of the World’s Large Lakes

  • Charles E. Herdendorf
Part of the Brock/Springer Series in Contemporary Bioscience book series (BROCK/SPRINGER)


An analysis of the world distribution of large lakes has been undertaken. The data base included geographical, geological, morphometric, climatological and limnological information. Only natural lakes (fresh and salt) with a surface area greater than 500 km2 were considered; 253 lakes (including coastal lagoons) were identified. Large lakes occur on all continents except Antarctica. Nearly half of them (48%) are found in North America, and most of these lie above the 40th parallel, attesting to the scouring action of continental glaciers. Tectonic belts, such as the rift valley of East Africa, the Lake Baikal region of Siberia, and the Lake Titicaca area of South America, are the second most common loci of large lakes. Morphometric data were obtained for surface and catchment area, elevation, mean and maximum depth, volume, length and breadth, shoreline length, and orientation of axis for these 253 lakes. These data show that large lakes occupy a surface area of slightly over 1,400,000 km2 and have an estimated volume of 179,000 km3. Furthermore large lakes account for approximately 90% of the total surface area and volume of water held in all lakes of the world. Climatological and limnological data included precipitation, evaporation, basin runoff, water quality, and biological productivity. Information on the latter two parameters, however, is unavailable for many large lakes. About 75% of all large lakes are fresh; the remaining 25% range from brackish to hypersaline. The tropical, freshwater lakes of Africa are among the most biologically productive of the world’s lakes.


Great Lake Total Surface Area Coastal Lagoon Large Lake Rift Valley 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

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  • Charles E. Herdendorf

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