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NASA photo of the endorheic Tarim Basin
Endorheic basin showing waterflow input

An endorheic basin [1] (from the Greek: ἔνδον, éndon, "within" and ῥεῖν, rheîn, "to flow"; also terminal or closed basin) is a closed drainage basin that retains water and allows no outflow to other bodies of water such as rivers or oceans. Normally the water accruing in drainage basins flows out through surface rivers or by underground diffusion through permeable rock to the oceans. However, in an endorheic basin, rain (or other precipitation) that falls within it does not flow out but may only leave the drainage system by evaporation and seepage. The bottom of such a basin is typically occupied by a salt lake or salt pan. Endorheic basins are also called internal drainage systems.

Endorheic regions, in contrast to exorheic regions which flow to the ocean in geologically defined patterns, are closed hydrologic systems. Their surface waters drain to inland terminal locations where the water evaporates or seeps into the ground, having no access to discharge into the sea.[2] Endorheic water bodies include some of the largest lakes in the world, such as the Aral Sea and the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest saline body of water cut off from the ocean.[3]

Contents

Endorheic lakes

Endorheic lakes are bodies of water that do not flow into the sea. Most of the water falling on earth finds its way to the oceans through a network of rivers, lakes and wetlands. However, there is a class of water bodies that are located in closed or endorheic watersheds where the topography prevents their drainage to the oceans. These endorheic watersheds (containing water in rivers or lakes that form a balance of surface inflows, evaporation and seepage) are often called terminal lakes or sink lakes.[4]

Endorheic lakes are usually in the interior of a body mass, far from an ocean. Their watersheds are often confined by natural geologic land formations such as a mountain range, cutting off water access to the ocean. The inland water flows into dry watersheds where the water evaporates, leaving a high concentration of minerals and other inflow erosion products. Over time this input of erosion products can cause the endorheic lake to become relatively saline (a "salt lake"). Since the main outflow pathways of these lakes are chiefly through evaporation and seepage, endorheic lakes are usually more sensitive to environmental pollutants inputs than water bodies that have access to oceans.[3]

Occurrence

Endorheic regions can occur in any climate but are most commonly found in hot desert locations. In areas where rainfall is higher, riparian erosion will generally carve drainage channels (particularly in times of flood), or cause the water level in the terminal lake to rise until it finds an outlet, breaking the enclosed endorheic hydrological system’s geographical barrier and opening it to the surrounding terrain. The Black Sea was likely such a lake, having once been an independent hydrological system before the Mediterranean Sea broke through the terrain separating the two.

Endorheic regions tend to be far inland with their boundaries defined by mountains or other geological features that block their access to oceans. Since the inflowing water can evacuate only through seepage or evaporation, dried minerals or other products collect in the basin, eventually making the water saline and also making the basin vulnerable to pollution.[3] Continents vary in their concentration of endorheic regions due to conditions of geography and climate. Australia has the highest percentage of endorheic regions at 21 percent while North America has the least at 5 percent.[5] Approximately 18 percent of the earth’s land drains to endorheic lakes or seas, the largest of these land areas being the interior of Asia.

In deserts, water inflow is low and loss to solar evaporation high, drastically reducing the formation of complete drainage systems. Closed water flow areas often lead to the concentration of salts and other minerals in the basin. Minerals leached from the surrounding rocks are deposited in the basin, and left behind when the water evaporates. Thus endorheic basins often contain extensive salt pans (also called salt flats, salt lakes, alkali flats, dry lake beds or playas). These areas tend to be large, flat hardened surfaces and are sometimes used for aviation runways or land speed record attempts, because of their extensive areas of perfectly level terrain.

Both permanent and seasonal endorheic lakes can form in endorheic basins. Some endorheic basins are essentially stable, climate change having reduced precipitation to the degree that a lake no longer forms. Even most permanent endorheic lakes change size and shape dramatically over time, often becoming much smaller or breaking into several smaller parts during the dry season. As humans have expanded into previously uninhabitable desert areas, the river systems that feed many endorheic lakes have been altered by the construction of dams and aqueducts. As a result many endorheic lakes in developed or developing countries have contracted dramatically, resulting in increased salinity, higher concentrations of pollutants, and the disruption of ecosystems.

Notable endorheic basins and lakes

Major endorheic basins of the world. Basins are shown in dark gray; major endorheic lakes are shown in black.
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Antarctica

Endorheic lakes in Antarctica are located in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Victoria Land, Antarctica, the largest ice-free area in Antarctica.

  • Don Juan Pond in Wright Valley is fed by groundwater from a rock glacier and remains unfrozen throughout the year.
  • Lake Vanda in Wright Valley has a perennial ice cover, the edges of which melt in the summer allowing flow from the longest river in Antarctica, the Onyx River. The lake is over 70 m deep and is hypersaline.
  • Lake Bonney is in Taylor Valley and has a perennial ice over and two lobes separated by the Bonney Riegel. The lake is fed by glacial melt and discharge from Blood Falls. Its unique glacial history has resulted in a hypersaline brine in the bottom waters and fresh water at the surface.
  • Lake Hoare, in Taylor Valley, is the freshest of the Dry Valley lakes receiving its melt almost exclusively from the Canada Glacier. The lake has an ice cover and forms a moat during the Austral summer.
  • Lake Fryxell, in adjacent to the Ross Sea in Taylor Valley. The lake has an ice cover and receives its water from numerous glacial meltwater streams for approximately 6 weeks out of the year. Its salinity increases with depth.

Asia

Caspian Sea, a giant inland basin

Much of western and Central Asia is a single, giant inland basin. It contains several lakes, including:

Australia

Australia, being very dry and having exceedingly low runoff ratios due to its ancient soils, has a great prominence of variable, endorheic drainages. The most important are:

A false-colour satellite photo of Australia’s Lake Eyre
Image credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory

Africa

North and Central America

Great Salt Lake, Satellite photo (2003) after five years of drought

Many small lakes and ponds in North Dakota and Manitoba are endorheic; some of them have salt encrustations along their shores.

Europe

All these lakes are drained, however, either through manmade canals or via karstic phenomena. Minor additional endorheic lakes exist throughout the Mediterranean countries Spain (e.g. Laguna de Gallocanta), Italy, Cyprus (Larnaca and Akrotiri salt lakes) and Greece.

South America

MODIS image from November 4, 2001 showing Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the Salar de Coipasa. These are all parts of the Altiplano

Ancient

Some of the Earth’s ancient endorheic systems include:

See also

References

  1. ^ This term is little-used among North American geoscientists.
  2. ^ "Drainage systems". Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/eb/topic-187043/endorheic-system. Retrieved 2008-02-11.  
  3. ^ a b c "Endorheic Lakes: Waterbodies That Don't Flow to the Sea". United Nations Environment Programme. http://www.unep.or.jp/ietc/publications/short_series/lakereservoirs-2/10.asp. Retrieved 2008-02-11.  
  4. ^ "What is a watershed and why should I care?". university of delaware. http://www.wr.udel.edu/cb/whatwhycare.html. Retrieved 2008-02-11.  
  5. ^ "Saline Lake Ecosystems of the World". Springer. http://books.google.com/books?id=NOdvPFm6SyoC&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=endorheic&source=web&ots=EWyVvVeOhm&sig=tNrylNMQCGu6bUCBTyo1HHlGDRc. Retrieved 2007-07-31.  

External links


Simple English

An endorheic basin, also called an internal drainage system, is a drainage basin, or watershed, that does not flow to one of the Earth's major oceans. This is unlike normal basins that collect in rivers and flow to the ocean. Endorheic basins usually end in a saline lake or a salt flat. They can be found in all parts of the world, but usually in desert locations.[1]

Contents

List of major endorheic basins

Antarctica

Endorheic lakes in Antarctica are located in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Victoria Land, Antarctica, the largest ice-free area in Antarctica.

  • Don Juan Pond in Wright Valley is fed by groundwater from a rock glacier and remains unfrozen throughout the year.
  • Lake Vanda in Wright Valley has a perennial ice cover, the edges of which melt in the summer allowing flow from the longest river in Antarctica, the Onyx River. The lake is over 70 m deep and is hypersaline.
  • Lake Bonney is in Taylor Valley and has a perennial ice over and two lobes separated by the Bonney Riegel. The lake is fed by glacial melt and discharge from Blood Falls. Its unique glacial history has resulted in a hypersaline brine in the bottom waters and fresh water at the surface.
  • Lake Hoare, in Taylor Valley, is the freshest of the Dry Valley lakes receiving its melt almost exclusively from the Canada Glacier. The lake has an ice cover and forms a moat during the Austral summer.
  • Lake Fryxell, in adjacent to the Ross Sea in Taylor Valley. The lake has an ice cover and receives its water from numerous glacial meltwater streams for approximately 6 weeks out of the year. Its salinity increases with depth.

Asia

, a giant inland basin]] Much of western and Central Asia is a single, giant inland basin. It contains several lakes, including:

  • The Central Asian Internal Drainage Basin, the largest of the three major basins covering Mongolia.
  • The Caspian Sea, the largest lake on Earth. In fact, a large part of Eastern Europe drained by the Volga River also belongs to its basin.
  • The Aral Sea, whose tributary rivers have been diverted, leading to a dramatic shrinkage of the lake. The resulting ecological disaster has brought the plight faced by internal drainage basins to public attention.
  • Lake Balkhash (Kazakhstan)
  • Lop Nur Basin, in the southeastern portion of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwestern China
  • Issyk-Kul, Son-Kul and Chatyr-Kul lakes in Kyrgyzstan
  • Sistan Basin covering areas of Iran and Afghanistan
  • Tarim Basin in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
  • Uvs Nuur basin, Mongolia, Tuvan Republic of Russia
  • The Dead Sea, the lowest surface point on Earth and one of its saltiest bodies of water, lies between Israel and Jordan.
  • Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan, north-western India, is also the terminal point of an endorheic basin.
  • Lake Van in Turkey is one of the world's largest endorheic lakes.

Australia

Australia, being very dry and having exceedingly low runoff ratios due to its ancient soils, has a great prominence of variable, endorheic drainages. The most important are:

  • Lake Eyre Basin, which drains into the highly variable Lake Eyre and includes Lake Frome.
  • Lake Torrens, to the west of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
  • Lake Corangamite, a highly saline crater lake in western Victoria.
  • Lake George, formerly connected to the Murray-Darling Basin

’s Lake Eyre
Image credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory]]

Africa

North and Central America

, Satellite photo (2003) after five years of drought]]

  • Lago de Atitlán, in the highlands of Guatemala;
  • Bolsón de Mapimí, in northern Mexico
  • Crater Lake in Oregon
  • Devil's Lake (North Dakota)
  • Devil's Lake (Wisconsin)
  • The Great Basin, which covers much of Nevada and Utah, includes:
    • The Black Rock Desert in Nevada, location of the Thrust2 and ThrustSSC landspeed record runs, and the annual home to the Burning Man festival
    • Death Valley in California and Nevada, the lowest land point in the United States
    • Groom Dry Lake in Nevada, location of the secret Area 51 base
    • Utah’s Great Salt Lake, the largest terminal lake in the Western Hemisphere
    • Salton Sea in California, a lake accidentally created in 1905 when irrigation canals ruptured, filling a desert endorheic basin and recreating an ancient saline sea
    • Utah’s Sevier Lake
    • Pyramid Lake in Nevada
    • Mono Lake in California
  • The Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, a small endorheic basin that straddles the Continental Divide.
  • Guzmán Basin, in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States;
  • Little Manitou Lake in Saskatchewan
  • New Mexico has a number of desert endorheic basins including:
    • The Tularosa Basin, a rift valley;
    • Zuni Salt Lake, a maar;
  • Rogers Lake, at Edwards Air Force Base in California
  • Tulare Lake, an endorheic basin at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley fed by the Kings River, Tule River and Kaweah River; since the late 19th century the lake bed has been reclaimed and used as farmland, though it occasionally floods when rainfall is especially heavy
  • The Valley of Mexico. In Pre-Columbian times, the Valley was substantially covered with five lakes, including Lake Texcoco, Lake Xochimilco, and Lake Chalco.

Many small lakes and ponds in North Dakota and Manitoba are endorheic; some of them have salt encrustations along their shores.

Europe

All these lakes are drained, however, either through manmade canals or via karstic phenomena. Minor additional endorheic lakes exist throughout the Mediterranean countries Spain (e.g. Laguna de Gallocanta), Italy, Cyprus (Larnaca and Akrotiri salt lakes) and Greece.

South America

, the Salar de Uyuni, and the Salar de Coipasa. These are all parts of the Altiplano]]

  • Altiplano basin, one of the largest and second highest in the world.
  • Lake Valencia (Spanish: Lago de Valencia) the second largest lake in Venezuela.
  • Salar de Atacama, Atacama Desert, Chile (although close to the Altiplano it is not part of it)
  • Northwest Pampas Basins in the Dry Pampas of Argentina
  • Southwest Pampas Basins in the Dry Pampas of Argentina
  • Meseta Somuncura in the Patagonia region of Argentina

Ancient

Some of the Earth’s ancient endorheic systems include:

  • The Black Sea, until its merger with the Mediterranean
  • The Mediterranean Sea itself and all its tributary basins, during its Messinian desiccation (5 m.y. BP aprox.) as it became disconnected from the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Lake Lahontan in the western US
  • Ebro and Duero basins, draining most of northern Spain during the Neogene and perhaps Pliocene.
  • Lake Bonneville (Utah)

References


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