The three largest lakes of the African Great Lakes system, Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi, have distinctive fisheries and histories of fisheries management. All three provide essential and high quality food to their riparian populations and a range of other ecosystem services. Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika have highly commercialised and lake-wide, open-water fisheries. In Lake Malawi the commercial fishery is largely confined to the southern end of the lake, mainly exploiting demersal fish. Artisanal and low-level subsistence fisheries occur throughout all three lakes.
Lake Victoria and its basin are comprised of enormous areas of permanent and seasonal small water bodies that have been singled out as important faunal reservoirs for the endangered and threatened native species of Lake Victoria. Two tilapiine fish Oreochromis esculentus and O. variabilis are endemic and were the most commercial species in the lake fishery in early 1900s. Pressure on the fisheries and introduction of new fish species caused a severe decline of these species from the lake.
There has been a considerable increase in the pace at which hydrocarbon reserves are being targeted in some of the most remote and pristine areas on our planet, often involving the use of controversial technologies such as hydraulic fracturing or deepwater drilling. Unnoticed by the public, initiatives for oil exploration are advanced in Africas largest freshwater reservoirs, including Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and lately Albert, threatening their ecosystems and biota.
Lake Victoria has one of the highest endemic fish species-area-relationships of any freshwater bodies in the world. More than 90% of this diversity is composed of haplochromine cichlids that have undergone an evolutionary radiation in the region into more than 700 endemic species in the past 100,000 years. These species belong to more than 20 different major ecological guilds from large benthic and small pelagic herbivores at one end of the consumer food web to inshore and pelagic fish predators at the other end.
Indicator 6.6.1 tracks changes over time in the extent of water-related ecosystems. It uses the imminent date of 2020 in order to align with the Aichi Targets of the Convention of Biodiversity, but will continue beyond that date to align with the rest of the SDG Targets set at 2030. Whereas all ecosystems depend on water, some ecosystems play a more prominent role in the provision of water-related services to society. Consequently, one of the focuses for global monitoring of this indicator is lakes.
Lake Turkana is a transboundary resource, spanning the borders of Kenya and Ethiopia. The lakes importance to the well-being of local communities and national governments is not well documented compared to other Great Lakes of Africa. The lake basin is experiencing accelerated anthropogenic activities including construction of cascading dams and large scale irrigation projects along River Omo; oil discovery and ongoing exploration; associated resource use conflicts and construction of Africas largest wind power plant and episodic climatic changes.
Well-dated sediment cores from Lake Tanganyika provide records of environmental change over timescales of centuries to millennia, giving us insights about how this complex ecosystem has responded to processes such as climate change (both before and after the onset of the industrial revolution) and watershed deforestation. They extend our knowledge of changes into the pre-observational era and the period prior to intensive land use, large-scale fishing and anthropogenic warming.
Tourism in Uganda has over the years witnessed steady growth and is increasingly supporting economic growth and contributing to natural resource conservation. Although studies have been carried out to assess the impact of tourism on natural resources in Uganda, limited attention has been given to examining how tourism developments influence ecologically sensitive shore environments.
Lake Victoria supports the worlds largest freshwater fishery which employs over 1 million people, and provides the regions most inexpensive source of dietary protein. Unfortunately, eutrophication and climate change are threatening critical ecosystem services, though the precise impact of these stressors is not clear. Remotely-sensed satellite data is well suited to fill large knowledge gaps and help stakeholders monitor and track ecosystem changes in this and other African Great Lakes.