Human impacts on the African Great Lakes

Richard Ogutu-Ohwayo, Robert E. Hecky, Andrew S. Cohen, Les Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


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 in-put of contaminants and manage climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-131
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


  • Eutrophication
  • Fishes
  • Introductions
  • Over-exploitation
  • Pollution
  • Population growth
  • Threats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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