Skip to main content

Human impacts on the African Great Lakes

Abstract

The African Great Lakes are important sources of fishes and water for domestic use, are used as avenues of transport, and receive agricultural, domestic and industrial effluents and atmospheric residues. Some of these lakes have speciose fish faunas of great interest to science. The catchment areas of some of the lakes are highly populated and user conflicts have increased the demands on the lakes' resources. There have been drastic reductions in fish stocks in most of the lakes due to overfishing. Introductions of new fish species, though followed by increases in fish catches, have been accompanied by a decline and in some cases extinction of native fish species. Some of the lakes have been invaded by the water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes. Agricultural activities, deforestation and devegetation of the catchment areas have increased siltation, and led to loss of suitable habitats and biodiversity. There are increased nutrient inputs from agriculture, sewage and industrial discharges and combustion processes which can cause eutrophication. There are also increased threats of toxic pollution from industrial waste discharge, mining, pesticides, and oil residues and spills. Climatic changes may also affect thermal stability of the lakes. These factors threaten availability of dietary protein, clean water and biodiversity. National and international efforts are required to manage the fisheries, guide the introduction of exotics, conserve biodiversity, control the water hyacinth, control eutrophication, reduce input of contaminants and manage climate change.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References cited

  1. Alabaster, J.S. 1981. Review of the state of aquatic pollution in East African Inland waters. CIFA Occ. Pap. (9): 1–36.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Alimoso, S., J. Magasa & N. van Zalinge. 1990. Exploitation and management of the fish resources in Lake Malawi. Fisheries of the African Great Lakes Internat. Agricultural Centre, Wageningen, Occ. Pap. 3: 83–95.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Anderson, A.M. 1961. Further observations concerning the proposed introduction of the Nile perch into Lake Victoria. E. Afr. Agric. J. 26: 195–201

    Google Scholar 

  4. Balon, E.K. 1974. Fish production in a tropical ecosystem. pp. 248–748. In: E.K. Balon & A.G. Coche (ed.) Lake Kariba: A Man-Made Tropical Ecosystem in Central Africa, Monographiae Biologicae 24, Dr Junk Publishers, The Hague.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Balon, E.K. 1978. Kariba: the dubious benefits of large dams. Ambio 7: 40–48.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Balon, E.K. & M.N. Bruton. 1986. Introduction of alien species or why scientific advice is not heeded. Env. Biol. Fish. 16: 225–230.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bayley, P.B. 1977. Changes in species composition of the yields and catch per unit effort during the development of the fishery at Lake Turkana, Kenya. Arch. Hydrobiol. 79: 111–32.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bayona, J.D.R., 1988. A review of biological productivity and fish predation in Lake Tanganyika. FAO, CIFA Occ. Pap. 15: 1–17.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bootsma, H. & R.E. Hecky. 1993. Conservation of the African Great Lakes: a limnological perspective. Conservation Biology 7: 644–656.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bugenyi, F. 1979. Copper ion distribution in the surface waters of lakes George and Idi Amin. Hydrobiologia 64: 9–15.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Cadwalladr, D.A., 1965. Notes on the breeding biology and ecology of Labeo victorianus Boulenger (Pisces: Cymrinidae) in Lake Victoria. Rev. Zool. Bot. afr. 72: 109–134.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Cohen, A.S., L. Kaufman & R. Ogutu-Ohwayo. 1996. Anthropogenic threats, impacts and conservation strategies in the African Great Lakes — a review. In: T.C. Johnson & E. Odada (ed.) The Limnology, Climatology and Paleoclimatology of the East African Lakes. Gordon & Breach Scientific Publishers (in press).

  13. Cohen, A.S., R. Bills, C. Clocquyt & A. Caljon. 1993. The impact of sediment pollution on biodiversity in Lake Tanganyika. Conservation Biology 7: 667–677.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Coulter, G.W. (ed.) 1991. Lake Tanganyika and its life. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 354 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Deelstra, H., J. Power & C. Kenner. 1976. Chlorinated hydrocarbon residues in the fish of Lake Tanganyika. Bull. Envir. Contamination and Toxicology 15: 689–698.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Fryer, G., 1960. Concerning the proposed introduction of Nile perch into Lake Victoria. E. Afr. Agr. J. 25: 267–270.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Fryer, G., 1972a. Conservation of the Great Lakes of East Africa: a lesson and a warning. Biol. Cons. 4: 256–262.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Fryer, G., 1972b. Some hazards facing African lakes. Biol. Cons. 4: 301–302.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Fryer, G. & T.D. Iles. 1972. The cichlid fishes of the Great Lakes of Africa: their biology and evolution. Oliver and Boyd, London. 641 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Gee, J.M. 1964. Nile perch investigations. Ann. Rep. E. Afr. Freshwat. Fish. Res. Org. (1962/63): 14–24.

  21. Gee, J.M. 1969. A comparison of certain aspects of the biology of Lates niloticus (Linne) in some East African lakes. Rev. Zool. Bot. afr. 80: 244–262.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Goldmidschidt, T. & F. Witte 1992. Explosive speciation and adaptive radiation of the haplochromine cichlids from Lake Victoria: an illustration of the scientific value of a lost species flock. Mitt. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 23: 101–107.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Graham, M. 1929. The Victoria Nyanza and its fisheries. A report on the fish survey of Lake Victoria 1972–1928 and Appendices. Crown Agents for the Colonies, London. 255 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hambyln, E.L. 1966. The food and feeding habits of the Nile perch, Lates niloticus (Linne) (Pisces: Centropomidae). Rev. Zool. Bot. afr. 74: 1–28.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Harley, K.L.S., 1990. The role of biological control in the management of water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes. Biological News and Information 11: 11–22.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Harley, K.L.S., 1991. Survey report: survey project on exotic floating African water weeds. Commonwealth Science Council. 30 pp.

  27. Hastenrath, S. & P.D. Kruss. 1992. Greenhouse indicators in Kenya. Nature 355: 503.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Hecky, R.E., 1984. African lakes and their trophic efficiencies: a temporal perspective. pp. 405–448. In: D.G. Meyers & J.R. Strickler (ed.) Trophic Interactions within Aquatic Ecosystems (AAAS Symp. 85) Westview Press, Washington, D.C.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Hecky, R.E., 1993. The eutrophication of Lake Victoria. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 25: 39–48.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Hecky, R.E., F.W.B. Bungenyi, P. Ochumba, J.F. Talling, R. Mugidde, M. Gophen & L. Kaufman. 1994. Deoxygenation of the deep water of Lake Victoria, East Africa. Limnol. Oceanogr. 39: 1476–1481.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Hecky, R.E. & R. Ogutu-Ohwayo. 1990. Lake Victoria and the Nile perch: a Canadian connection. Branta, Newsletter of Fort Whyte Centre, Winnipeg 8: 1–3.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Hecky, R.E. & F.W.B. Bugenyi. 1992. Hydrology and chemistry of the Great Lakes and water quality issues: problems and solutions. Mitt. internat. Verein. Limnol. 23: 45–54.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Hopson, A.J. 1982. A report on the findings of the Lake Turkana project 1972–1975. ODA, London. 000 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Jackson, P.B.N. 1971. The African Great Lakes fisheries:past, present and future. Afr. J. Trop. Hydrobiol. Fish. 1: 35–49.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Jackson, P.B.N., 1973. The African Great Lakes: food source and world treasure. Biol. Cons. 5: 302–304.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Koeman, J., J. Penning, J. De Goeij, P. Tijoe, P. Olindo & J. Hopcraft. 1972. Preliminary survey of the possible contamination of Lake Nakuru in Kenya. J. Appl. Ecol. 9: 411–416.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Kolding, J., 1992. A summary of Lake Turkana: an ever-changing mixed environment. Mitt. internat. Verein. Limnol. 23: 25–35.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Kudhongania, A.W. & A.J. Cordone. 1974. Batho-spatial distribution patterns and biomass estimate of the major demersal fishes in Lake Victoria. Afr. J. Trop. Hydrobiol. Fish. 3: 15–31.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Marshall, E.B. 1988. Seasonal and annual variations in the abundance of pelagic sardines in Lake Kariba, with special reference to the effect of drought. Arch. Hydrobiol. 112: 399–409.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Mugidde R., 1993. The increase in phytoplankton production and biomass in Lake Victoria (Uganda). Verh. internat. Verein. Limnol. 25: 846–849.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Mwebaza-Ndaula. 1993. Changes in relative abundance of zooplankton in Lake Victoria, East Africa. Hydrobiologia 272: 259–264.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Ochumba, P.B.O. & D.I. Kibara. 1989. Observations on the blue-green algal blooms in the open waters of Lake Victoria, Kenya. Afr. J. Ecol. 27: 23–34.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Ogutu-Ohwayo, R. 1985. The effects of predation by Nile perch, Lates niloticus (Linne) introduced into Lake Kyoga (Uganda) in relation to the fisheries of Lake Kyoga and Lake Victoria. FAO. Fish. Rep. 335: 18–39.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Ogutu-Ohwayo, R. 1990a. The decline of the native fishes of lakes Victoria and Kyoga (East Africa) and the impact of introduced species, especially the Nile perch, Lates niloticus, and the Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus. Env. Biol. Fish. 27: 81–96.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Ogutu-Ohwayo, R. 1990b. Changes in the prey ingested and the variations in Nile perch and other fish stocks in Lake Kyoga and the northern waters of Lake Victoria (Uganda). J. Fish Biol. 37: 55–63.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Ogutu-Ohwayo, R., 1992. The purpose, costs and benefits of fish introductions: with specific reference to the Great Lakes of Africa. Mitt. internat. Verein. Limnol. 23: 37–44.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Ogutu-Ohwayo, R. 1993. The effects of predation by the Nile perch, Lates niloticus L., on the fish of Lake Nabugabo, with suggestions fo conservation of endangered endemic cichlids. Conservation Biology 7: 701–711

    Google Scholar 

  48. Ogutu-Ohwayo, R. 1994. Adjustments in fish stocks and in life history characteristics of the Nile perch, Lates niloticus L. in lakes Victoria, Kyoga and Nabugabo. PhD thesis, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. 213 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Ogutu-Ohwayo, R. & R.E. Hecky. 1991. Fish introductions in Africa and some of their implications. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci 48(Suppl. 1): 8–12.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Okaronon, J., T. Acere & D. Ocenodongo. 1985. The current state of the fisheries in the northern portion of Lake Victoria (Uganda). FAO Fish. Rep. 335:89–98.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Okedi, J. 1971. Further observations on the ecology of the Nile perch (Lates niloticus Linne) in lakes Victoria and Kyoga. EAFFRO Ann. Rep. 1970: 42–55.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Petr, T. & J.M. Kapetsky. 1983. Pelagic fish and fisheries of tropical and subtropical natural lakes and reservoirs. NAGA. ICLARM Newsletter, July 1983: 9–11.

  53. Ribbink, A., B. Marsh, A. Marsh, A. Ribbink & B. Sharp. 1983. A preliminary survey of the cichlids fishes of rocky habitats in Lake Malawi S. Afr. J. Zool. 18: 149–310.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Roest, F., 1992. The pelagic fisheries resources of Lake Tanganyika. Mitt. internat. Verein. Limnol. 23: 11–15.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Schelske, C., 1988. Historic trends in Lake Michigan silica concentrations. Int. Rev. ges. Hydrobiol. 73: 559–591.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Siddiqui, A.Q. 1977. Lake Naivasha fishery and its management together with a note on the food habits of fishes. Biol. Cons. 12: 217–227.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Spliethoff, P.C., H.H. De Iongh & V.C. Frank. 1983. Success of the introduction of the freshwater clupeid, Limnothrissa miodon (Boulenger) in Lake Kivu. Fish. Manage. 14: 17–31.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Talling, J. 1965. The photosynthetic activity of phytoplankton in East African Lakes. Int. Revue ges. Hydrobiol. 50: 1–32.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Talling, J. & I. Talling. 1965. The chemical composition of African lake waters. Int. Revue ges. Hydrobiol. 50: 421–463.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Trewavas, E. 1983. Tilapiines fishes of the genera Sarotherodon, Oreochromis and Danakilia. Bull. Br. Mus. Nat. Hist. (zool.) 878. 583 pp.

  61. Turner, J.L. 1977a. Changes in the size structure of cichlid populations of L. Malawi resulting from bottom trawling. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 34: 232–238.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Turner, J.L. 1977b. Some effects of demersal trawling in L. Malawi (L. Nyasa) from 1968 to 1974. J. Fish Biol. 10: 261–273.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Turner, J.L. 1982. Lake flies, water fleas and sardines. Biological studies on the pelagic ecosystem of Lake Malawi. FAO. F1: DP/MLW/75/019 Tech. Rep. No. 1: 165–173.

  64. Tweddle, D., 1992. Conservation and threats to the resources of Lake Malawi. Mitt. internat. Verein. Limnol. 23: 17–24.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Twongo, K.T. 1991. Implications of the water hyacinth infestation for fisheries, with particular reference to Lake Kyoga. pp. 19–23. In: K. Thompson (ed.) The water hyacinth in Uganda. FAO, FI TCP/UGA/9153.

  66. Welcomme, R.L. 1964. Notes on the present distribution and habitat of the non-endemic species of Tilapia which have been introduced into Lake Victoria. Rep. E. Afri. Freshwat. Fish. Res. Org. 1962/63: 36–39.

  67. Welcomme, R.L. 1966. Recent changes in the stocks of Tilapia in Lake Victoria. Nature 212: 52–54.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Witte, F. & M.J.P. van Oijen. 1990. Taxonomy and ecology and fishery of Lake Victoria haplochromine trophic groups. Zool. Verh. Leiden 262: 1–47.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Witte, F., T. Goldschmidt, J. Wanink, M. Oijen, K. Goudswaard, E. Witte-Maas & N. Bouton. 1992a. The destruction of an endemic species flock: quantitative data on the decline of the haplochromine cichlids of Lake Victoria. Env. Biol. Fish. 34: 1–28.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Witte, F., T. Goldschmidt, P.C. Goudswaard, W. Ligtvoet, M.J.P. van Oijen & J.H. Wanink. 1992b. Species extinction and concomitant ecological changes in Lake Victoria. Neth. J. Zool. 42: 214–232.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Worthington, E.B. 1929. A report on the fishing survey of lake Albert and Kyoga. Crown Agents, London. 136 pp.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ogutu-Ohwayo, R., Hecky, R.E., Cohen, A.S. et al. Human impacts on the African Great Lakes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 50, 117–131 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007320932349

Download citation

  • threats
  • population growth
  • over-exploitation
  • introductions
  • eutrophication
  • pollution
  • fishes