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Relatively large body of slow-moving or standing water that occupies an inland basin. Lakes are most abundant in high northern latitudes and in mountain regions, particularly those that were covered by glaciers in recent geologic times. The primary sources of lake water are melting ice and snow, springs, rivers, runoff from the land surface, and direct precipitation. In the upper part of lakes there is a good supply of light, heat, oxygen, and nutrients, well distributed by currents and turbulence. As a result, a large number of diverse aquatic organisms can be found there. The most abundant forms are plankton (chiefly diatoms), algae, and flagellates. In the lower levels and in the sediments, the main forms of life are bacteria. See alsolimnology.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lake, visit Britannica.com.