Core research themes


Comparative limnology of African lakes, and environmental regulation of their aquatic invertebrate communities

African lakes range from small crater lakes to the largest and oldest tropical lakes in the world, and from cold and dilute alpine tarns to hot and hyper-saline soda lakes. The functioning of these tropical aquatic ecosystems is still rather poorly understood, because food-web structure and nutrient cycling are different than in north-temperate lakes, and because multi-annual environmental variability plays a more prominent role in long-term ecosystem dynamics. In this research theme, we focus on comparative study of physical and chemical limnology in this great diversity of African lakes, and on the environmental regulation of their aquatic invertebrate communities. These studies generate improved understanding of the causal links between the lakes’ modern-day functioning and the signatures of past environmental conditions incorporated in their sedimentary record; and leads to the development of diverse groups of micro-crustacea (e.g., Cladocera, Ostracoda), insect larvae (e.g., Diptera Chironomidae) and other aquatic biota as biological indicators of past changes in temperature, water chemistry, oxygen regime, nutrient cycling and substrate availability in African lakes. Besides fundamental interest, we also use this knowledge to develop models of lake vulnerability to water quality loss resulting from excess nutrient input and catchment soil erosion, to guide the conservation and management of scarce water resources in intertwined contexts of increasing demographic pressure and climate change.

Selected publications

Beneberu G, Mengistou S, Eggermont H, Verschuren D, 2014. Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera) distribution along a pollution gradient in Ethiopian rivers, and their potential for biological water-quality monitoring. African Journal of Aquatic Sciences.

Rumes, B., Eggermont, H., Verschuren, D., 2011. Distribution and faunal richness of Cladocera in western Uganda crater lakes. Hydrobiologia 676, 39-56. Read more

Eggermont, H., Heiri, O., Russell, J.M., Vuille, M., Audenaert, L., Verschuren, D., 2010. Paleotemperature reconstruction in tropical Africa using fossil Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera). J. Paleolimnol. 43, 413-435. Read more

Eggermont, H., Russell, J. M., Schettler, G., Van Damme, K., Verschuren, D., 2007. Physical and chemical limnology of alpine lakes and pools in the Rwenzori Mountains (Uganda-Congo). Hydrobiologia 592, 151-173. Read more

Mergeay, J., Declerck, S., Verschuren, D. De Meester, L., 2006. Daphnia community analysis in shallow Kenyan lakes and ponds using dormant eggs in surface sediments. Freshw. Biol. 51, 399-411. Read more

Eggermont, H., Heiri, O. M., Verschuren, D., 2006. Subfossil Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera) as quantitative indicators of past salinity variation in African lakes. Quat. Sci. Rev. 25, 1966-1994.

Rumes B., Eggermont, H., Verschuren, D., 2005. Subfossil representation of aquatic invertebrate communities in a salinity gradient of western Uganda crater lakes. Hydrobiologia 542, 297-314. Read more

Verschuren, D., 2003. News & Views: The heat on Lake Tanganyika. Nature 424, 731-732. Read more

Eggermont, H., Verschuren, D., 2003. Impact of soil erosion in disturbed tributary drainages on the benthic invertebrate fauna of Lake Tanganyika. Biol. Cons. 113: 99-109. Read more

Verschuren, D., Tibby, J., Sabbe, K., Roberts, N., 2000. Effects of lake level, salinity and substrate on the invertebrate community of a fluctuating tropical lake. Ecology 81, 164-182. Read more