Distribution

The highest concentration of large lakes is found in East Africa. In addition to the African Great Lakes, there are smaller ones such as Lakes Turkana, Baringo, Nakuru, Naivasha, Magadi, Natron, and

Manyara on the Western Rift Valley and Albert, George, Edward, Kivu, and Rukwa on Eastern Rift Valley (Figure 1). Occupying a surface area of 69 000 km2, Lake Victoria is the largest freshwater lake in Africa and the second on earth. Depth-wise, Lake Tanganyika is second only to Lake Baikal, followed by Lake Malawi (Table 1). Lake Victoria is shallower and occurs between the Two Rift Valleys lakes of Kyoga and Eyasi. The shallower Lake Victoria occupies an uplifted region between the western and eastern arms of the Rift Valley. Other notable lakes of eastern Africa that lie close to the Rift Valleys are Mweru, Bangweulu, Chilwa, and Chiuta.

Climatic factors influence the location of aquatic systems and associated lakes in the Africa region. Their occurrence stretch across approximately 35 ° of latitude on either side of the equator. Temperature, rainfall, and wind have strong bearing on the biodiversity of resident aquatic ecosystems as shown in Figures 4, 5 and 6. Since the climatic pattern does not exactly follow latitude, the northern and southern dry desert belts interrupt the limits of intertropical zone. In the tropical zone, there are (i) hot, humid areas with two rainy seasons, (ii) hot belt with summer rain, and (iii) hot and arid areas. The highest rainfall is found in equatorial Zaire and in the littoral zone of Gulf of Guinea. On the other hand, desert areas to the north and south of the equatorial belt experience little and unpredictable rains, thus fewer lakes exist there. Generally, annual and within-year rainfall variations are reflected in river flows and lake levels, which influence occurrence of aquatic systems within the respective environs. A summation of the physico-chemical characteristics of the lakes is given in Table 1.

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