, Volume 636, Issue 1, pp 463–478 | Cite as

Diatom evidence for the timing and causes of eutrophication in Lake Victoria, East Africa

  • J. Curt StagerEmail author
  • Robert E. Hecky
  • Dustin Grzesik
  • Brian F. Cumming
  • Hedy Kling
Primary research paper


The determination of the history and causes of recent eutrophication and intensified thermal stratification in Lake Victoria is still hampered by the sparsity of paleolimnologic coverage of the enormous lake. Five new diatom records from Ugandan waters now show that a transition from Aulacoseira-dominated planktonic assemblages to those dominated by long Nitzschia spp., occurred in northern coastal sites from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. Similar transitions developed from the late 1960s to early 1970s offshore and from the 1940s to early 1950s along the Kenyan coast, suggesting a time-transgressive process. These changes are not readily attributable to the trophic effects of Nile perch population growth during the early 1980s, but more likely reflect responses to long-term nutrient enrichment and climatic instability in the region. The diversity of planktonic diatom communities has declined dramatically, and a namesake variety of Aulacoseira nyassensis may now be nearly extirpated. Although local phytoplankton communities varied considerably in the past, the current domination of diatom assemblages by Nitzschia is apparently unprecedented in the 15,000-year history of Lake Victoria.


Africa Diatoms Eutrophication Lake Victoria Paleolimnology 



Financial support for this project was provided by grants from the National Science Foundation (Earth Systems History; ATM-9808972, ATM-01117170), and by Paul Smith’s College. Undergraduates S. Haddam, C. Heimiller, and K. Przywara assisted with coring and subsampling in the field. Special thanks to FIRI-Jinja, the International Center for Research in Agroforestry, R. Ogutu-Ohwayo, C. Ong, Paul Smith’s College, M. Walsh, and K. Watkins for providing financial and logistical support and research permission in Uganda and Kenya. Wind data were provided by Greg Silsbe and Jeppe Kolding, and K. Johnson assisted with the figures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Curt Stager
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert E. Hecky
    • 2
  • Dustin Grzesik
    • 1
  • Brian F. Cumming
    • 3
  • Hedy Kling
    • 4
  1. 1.Natural Sciences DivisionPaul Smith’s CollegePaul SmithsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Large Lakes ObservatoryUniversity of Minnesota-DuluthDuluthUSA
  3. 3.P.E.A.R.L., Biology DepartmentQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  4. 4.Algal Taxonomy and Ecology Inc.WinnipegCanada

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