Lake Tanganyika Ecosystem Project
Lake Tanganyika, the oldest and deepest of the African rift lakes, is a natural wonder under severe threat. I have been studying the fish, snails, and algae of the littoral zone of Lake Tanganyika since 1998. The littoral ecosystem shows a paradoxical combination of nutrient scarcity, globally-high benthic primary productivity, high animal biomass including a diversity of grazing fish and invertebrates, and a complex food web. Understanding the functioning of this system is imperative in order to protect its remarkable biodiversity (>700 endemic animal species) and essential services provided to regional populations (fisheries, clean water, transportation). In collaboration with Yvonne Vadeboncoeur, and supported by the NSF, we are assessing the role that grazing fish play in sustaining ecosystem productivity through nutrient storage, recycling, and new inputs. This project merges organismal and ecosystem perspectives to assess how sensitive this unique system may be to over-fishing and climate change.