Environmental variability in Lake Naivasha, Kenya, over the last two centuries
Stoof-Leichsenring, Kathleen R
Olaka, Lydia A
Trauth, Martin H
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Lake Naivasha, Kenya, is one of a number of freshwater lakes in the East African Rift System. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, it has experienced greater anthropogenic influence as a result of increasingly intensive farming of coffee, tea, flowers, and other horticultural crops within its catchment. The water-level history of Lake Naivasha over the past 200 years was derived from a combination of instrumental records and sediment data. In this study, we analysed diatoms in a lake sediment core to infer past lacustrine conductivity and total phosphorus concentrations. We also measured total nitrogen and carbon concentrations in the sediments. Core chronology was established by 210Pb dating and covered a ~186-year history of natural (climatic) and human-induced environmental changes. Three stratigraphic zones in the core were identified using diatom assemblages. There was a change from littoral/epiphytic diatoms such as Gomphonema gracile and Cymbella muelleri, which occurred during a prolonged dry period from ca. 1820 to 1896 AD, through a transition period, to the present planktonic Aulacoseira sp. that favors nutrient-rich waters. This marked change in the diatom assemblage was caused by climate change, and later a strong anthropogenic overprint on the lake system. Increases in sediment accumulation rates since 1928, from 0.01 to 0.08 g cm−2 year−1 correlate with an increase in diatom-inferred total phosphorus concentrations since the beginning of the twentieth century. The increase in phosphorus accumulation suggests increasing eutrophication of freshwater Lake Naivasha. This study identified two major periods in the lake’s history: (1) the period from 1820 to 1950 AD, during which the lake was affected mainly by natural climate variations, and (2) the period since 1950, during which the effects of anthropogenic activity overprinted those of natural climate variation.