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Freshwater ecosystems are seriously under-represented in the protected area network worldwide. Furthermore, there are few opportunities to conserve an intact freshwater fish community that hasn’t already been decimated by pollution or invasive species. The lakes of the Central African rift valley in Uganda are well-documented to contain some of the highest freshwater fish diversity in the world. Unfortunately, many have suffered significant species losses as a result of anthropogenic causes.
Recent surveys discovered an incredible assemblage of endemic freshwater fish in Lake Nyaguo in central Uganda. Incredibly, the lake is in near-pristine condition and contains numerous Critically Endangered cichlid species, some of which have disappeared from main lakes such as Victoria and Kyoga. The catchment areas of Lake Nyaguo have been identified as spawning and nursery habitat for fish, as well as bird nesting areas. However, unsustainable human activities such as habitat destruction, modification, fragmentation and pollution are jeopardizing habitat quality. The lake is outside existing protected areas, suffers from direct human impacts as communities overexploit resources and requires immediate protection in order to maintain ecological integrity.
Rainforest Trust seeks $222,939 to support our local partner National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) in creating a new 10,448-acre permanent protected area. Working with local stakeholders, the establishment of Lake Nyaguo Community Conservation Area will ensure the protection of a remarkable freshwater fish hotspot.
Lake Nyaguo, Uganda
Key Species (Based on IUCN Red List):
Victoria Tilapia (Oreochromis variabilis, CR), Singidia Tilapia (CR), and numerous threatened haplochromine cichlids
A freshwater lake in Central Uganda that is a “living museum” of East African ecological history
Overfishing, agricultural expansion, reed and papyrus harvesting, drainage of wetlands
Create a permanently protected area with two fishing exclusion zones and a wetland buffer around the whole lake
National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
Cost Per Acre:
Total Carbon Storage (Mt CO2):
Lake Nyaguo potentially supports approximately 40 Critically Endangered fish species and other threatened wildlife, some of which were once found in the Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga basins.
Lake Nyaguo potentially supports approximately 40 Critically Endangered fish species and other threatened wildlife, some of which were once found in the Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga basins. It is one of the satellite lakes referred to as “living museums” of East African ecological history, and it has a significant abundance and species richness of threatened endemic fish species. The density and structural diversity of aquatic plants surrounding Lake Nyaguo have made it difficult for fishermen to access the lake, which has kept much of the biodiversity intact. Fish composition in the lake includes some species native to Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and surrounding catchments. Some fish species, especially cichlids, that have been either eliminated or face dangerously low numbers in the main lakes are still found in Lake Nyaguo. Among the tilapiine cichlids, significant populations of two native species, the Critically Endangered Victoria Tilapia and Singida Tilapia, are still present in this satellite lake though extirpated from Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga. There are also several Endangered and Vulnerable bird species within the lake’s habitat, including the Endangered Grey Crowned-crane and the Madagascar Pond-heron, as well as the Vulnerable Shoebill, Blue Swallow and Papyrus Yellow Warbler.
The main threats affecting Lake Nyaguo and its surrounding catchment areas are overfishing and agricultural encroachment.
The main threats affecting Lake Nyaguo and its surrounding catchment areas are overfishing and agricultural encroachment. The uncontrolled harvesting of reeds and papyrus and the burning of vegetation during the dry season are degrading the ecological integrity and quality of the lake. Drainage and clearance of marginal wetlands for agriculture have resulted in the siltation of some sections of the lake, in addition to destroying breeding and nursery grounds of Critically Endangered native fish species. Intensive cultivation of rice along the edges of Lake Nyaguo has also resulted in destruction of riparian vegetation. If these issues are not addressed, the water purification capacity of riparian vegetation will be reduced, allowing pollutants to reach aquatic habitat, causing the mortality of fish that support the lives of thousands of Ugandans. The proposed protected area includes open water and surrounding wetlands, which will aid in the purification and absorption of pollutants that might otherwise enter the open water of the lake.
The local community will participate in the demarcation, designation and management of the protected area
They have been very helpful in sharing their indigenous knowledge in mapping these critical habitats and are supportive of efforts to create fishing exclusion zones on the lake. The project will not jeopardize the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen, since only a portion of Lake Nyaguo is considered to be breeding and nursery habitat and thereby restricted to fishing activities.
Thanks to the generous support of our Board members and other supporters who cover all of our operating expenses, Rainforest Trust is able to allocate 100% of donations to conservation action. No board member receives financial benefit and our staff salaries are modest.
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