ICRAF researchers have detected nutrient pollution sources that are contributing heavily to eutrophication of Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake and a critical source for the Nile river basin as well as for inhabitants of the countries ringing the lake. Pollutants derive from agricultural runoff, untreated sewage, and deforested areas surrounding the water. Their presence has caused extensive fish kills, toxic algal blooms, and the spread of water hyacinth, an oxygen-depleting weed and a serious obstacle for boat traffic (ICRAF/Future Harvest 1999).
Nile perch, introduced in 1958, were ecologically damaging – causing a massive extinction of multiple fish species – and economically damaging – causing the decimation of fisheries, transport, and other aspects of life around Lake Victoria.
5.2.6. Relative severity of threat to freshwater resources.
Observers say the level of threat, while not yet devastating, will soon become so if measures of improved protection are not put in place today. The difficulty in coordinating between governmental and donor agencies involved in the various aspects of watershed management increases the potential inherent in this threat, as it may end in years of delay before actions are taken.
5.2.7. Relative severity of threat to coastal and coral resources.
In Kenya's coastal regions, human activity has taken its toll. In a ranking of the world’s most diverse and most threatened reef habitats, Kenya’s reefs appear – highlighted in red to indicate the highest level of threat – on map done by the World Resources Institute (Bryant et. al. 1998). Yet the region also provides one of the “signs of promise” – Mombasa Marine National Park – noted in the report documenting some of the world’s most important Reefs at Risk. While assessments of threat levels vary, it seems clear that again, these fragile systems will be at severe risk of degradation on a large scale if planning does not take place now to avoid it.
5.3. Forest resources3
5.3.1. General trends and statistics.
Global and Regional Importance of Kenya's Forests. Forests are under extreme threat throughout the East Africa region. Kenya’s are the most diverse (Sayer et.al. 1992). See Map 4 in Annex 7. Kenya's forests – classified as either indigenous (natural) or plantation – comprise a number of regionally rare and globally threatened ecosystems and habitat sites. Some indigenous forests, for example, are more than 500 years old, which is rare in Africa, and they provide habitat for unique and important animal and plant species. Little is known of the endemic species they house, especially about the aged forests (Mwangi 2000). Conservation International has designated the Eastern Arc Mountains, including Kenya's Taita Hills forests, among its top 25 global "hotspots" for urgently needed protection. The Hills is a major water catchment area and high source of plant endemism, surrounded on all sides by plains, and its richly diverse resources are just beginning to be recognized within Kenya as being in need of monitoring and protection. A new initiative of the Forest Health Management Centre, supported by the United States Forest Service through USAID, will help do so with satellite imagery, ground plot monitoring, and consultation with local people. As noted in Table 6, Kenya's rate of loss/gain of forest cover is largely similar to other countries within the region. Some transboundary effects are being seen, however (e.g., vast quantities of timber for poles [e.g.,electricity, telephone, construction, etc.] have begun to be imported from Tanzania in the last three to four years to fill needs Kenya can no longer supply internally [Mwangi 2000]).
3 Note: this section draws on Kamweti, 1999; key informant interviews (Mwangi, 2000; and Kamweti, 2000); and additional sources.
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