20 percent of Lake Victoria’s species could go extinct

Around 20 percent of the species in and around Africa’s largest lake are threatened with extinction, warns the World Conservation Union.

Conservationists warn of a large species extinction in the East African Lake Victoria. Around 20 percent of the species studied, which live in and around the largest lake in Africa, are threatened with extinction, reported the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources IUCN, headquartered in Gland, Switzerland. The affected species include fish, mussels, crabs, dragonflies and several aquatic plants. Of the endemic species in Lake Victoria, 76 percent are threatened according to the NGO.

For their study, the IUCN used the global vulnerability status of 651 species, all of which also exist in the Lake Victoria Basin. 204 of them are endemic, meaning they can only be found there. “The Lake Victoria Basin is incredibly rich in unique species, but this diversity is steadily declining,” said Will Darwall of the IUCN, co-author of the study.

The effects are also fatal for the many people who are economically dependent on the lake. “We hope that this report will lead to more sustainable land and water management in and around Lake Victoria,” says Darwall. According to the World Bank, around 40 million people depend directly or indirectly on Lake Victoria.

With a water surface of 68,800 square kilometers, it is the largest lake in Africa. Industrial and agricultural pollution, overfishing and deforestation are the main threats to biodiversity in the region. But also invasive species pose a great threat.

An example of this is the thick-stemmed water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes): The free-floating aquatic plant, which was imported from South America in the 1980s, today covers about ten percent of the surface of Lake Victoria in dense mats. The consequences are devastating: Due to the lack of light and decreasing oxygen content in the water, other aquatic plants and subsequently fish have died.

Eric Thomas

Eric, originally from Nigeria, currently resides in Florida and covers a wide range of topics for The talking Democrat.