Origins of Types of Lake Basins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The origin of a lake can be traced to three elements: (1) an environmental force, (2) a body of terrain reshaped by that force into a closed depression (basin), and (3) a water supply. A lake's principal environmental force at origination is the element of its natural history that is generally used by scientists to guide the broad classification of lake basins. The more specific process by which that force interacts with a body of terrain to create a closed depression is used by scientists to name distinct types of lake basins. In this article, 22 distinct types of lake basins deriving from 10 principal environmental forces are described. These principal forces include glacial, tectonic, volcanic, fluvial, organism behavior, chemical, wind, landslide, shoreline, and meteorite. Glacial, tectonic, and fluvial forces together account for the origin of about 90% of Earth's current inventory of lakes, with glacial force being far more important than all others combined. By one estimate, Earth holds 304 million natural lakes and 77 million human-made lakes for a total of 381 million lakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Inland Waters, Second Edition
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780128220412
ISBN (Print)9780128191668
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved


  • Basin
  • Environmental
  • Formation
  • Lake
  • Origin


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