Investigating the effects of rapid land-use change on the biodiversity of East African Rift Valley Lakes

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


East African Rift Valley lakes are some of the world's most diverse ecosystems. Ranging from freshwater to hypersaline, the gradient of aquatic environments they provide supports a wealth of biodiversity including crocodiles, hippos and the world's largest population of Lesser Flamingos. However, these lakes are under threat. Growing populations in SubSaharan Africa exert greater pressure on the lakes and their catchments, with rapid land-use change degrading both water quality and hydrological processes. Additional threats in the region include invasive species, toxic cyanobacterial blooms and a changing climate. The impact these threats are having on Rift Valley biodiversity must be understood, given the vital role it plays in supporting ecosystem services and livelihoods in East Africa. This project will use satellite remote sensing to assess land-use change, the invasion extent of the alien tree Prosopis juliflora and cyanobacterial bloom dynamics in Rift Valley catchments. Assessments will be combined with information about waterbird abundance and fisheries catch, as well as bioacoustic data for terrestrial fauna, to determine the impact these threats pose to biodiversity in the region. Results will provide invaluable information to policymakers for the future management of Rift Valley lake catchments.


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