The Wetland Book pp 1361-1380 | Cite as

Lake Turkana: World’s Largest Permanent Desert Lake (Kenya)

  • William OjwangEmail author
  • Kevin O. ObieroEmail author
  • Oscar O. DondeEmail author
  • Natasha J. GownarisEmail author
  • Ellen K. PikitchEmail author
  • Reuben OmondiEmail author
  • Simon AgembeEmail author
  • John MalalaEmail author
  • Sean T. AveryEmail author
Reference work entry


Located in the “cradle of mankind” of the East African Rift Valley, Lake Turkana is distinguished as both the world’s largest permanent desert lake and alkaline water body. With a surface area of about 7,560 km2, Lake Turkana is a highly pulsed, variable system as a result of its closed-basin nature, arid surroundings, and its strong dependence on River Omo for the majority of its inflow, which originates as rainfall over the Ethiopian highlands. In this article we describe the lake’s unique ecosystem and associated vicissitudes, diverse habitats and incredible biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Although parts of the lake and lower Omo Delta have been zoned as an international biosphere reserve, Lake Turkana and the region are facing immense threat from anthropogenic activities. A combination of external factors (hydropower dams, irrigation schemes, climate anomalies) and internal drivers (demography, economic growth) will strongly impact the Lake Turkana basin over the next decade. In turn, this will have significant negative consequences on resource productivity and the wellbeing of local communities.


Desert Lake Alkaline Omo Delta Wetland Blue-green algae Transboundary Wetland Hydropower Dams Irrigation Schemes Dependent Communities 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI)MombasaKenya
  2. 2.Department of Applied Aquatic SciencesKisii UniversityKisiiKenya
  3. 3.KMFRI, Lake Turkana Research StationLodwarKenya
  4. 4.School of Marine and Atmospheric SciencesStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  5. 5.Kenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research TeamNairobiKenya
  6. 6.Department of Fisheries and Aquatic SciencesUniversity of EldoretEldoretKenya

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