In March 1993, an international workshop on "Speciation in Ancient Lakes" was organized in Mont Rigi, Belgium. At this workshop, it was unanimously decided to permanently establish SIAL as an international organization, with the expressed purpose of stimulating interaction between scientists working on ancient lakes. It was also decided to change the name of the organization to "Species in Ancient Lakes (SIAL)." However, for consistency, the regular meetings of SIAL are continued to be referred to as “Speciation in Ancient Lakes.”
SIAL remains an organization committed to the understanding and protection of ancient lakes and the organisms that live or have lived in them.
Why are ancient lakes so important? They are important to biologists and palaeontologists because they contain great biodiversity. They are often described as "hot spots" of evolution, with enormous amounts of endemism in their diversity. Therefore, worldwide ancient lakes have been a major focal point of geological, biological, and ecological research, and key concepts in, for example, evolutionary biology, are partly based on ancient lake studies.
Because most ancient lakes of the world have unique and diverse biota, containing large numbers of endemic species, the conservation of the lake habitats are of paramount importance. Not only do these lakes offer us unique areas to study and understand speciation processes, but they also serve as food and water sources for humans, as each lake has characteristic and indigenous lakeshore cultures that have developed on its shores. Today, most of the ancient lakes face serious environmental threats from deforestation of the watershed and the resulting siltation, input of toxins, overfishing, general loss of habitat and the effects of global climate change. Therefore, major conservation efforts have been undertaken by a variety of organizations around the world to study the diversity of these lakes and the effects of these threats to the lake systems themselves. Subsequent efforts have been made for various lakes, to implement conservation programs in order to protect these unique and vital aquatic environments.