Laikipia Water Strategy






Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Study for the Loboi Swamp


KENWEB has been collecting and analyzing biodiversity data on the Loboi Swamp since 2010 with a view of highlighting the importance of the swamp and the ecosystem services it provides.

Loboi Swamp lies in the Baringo– Bogoria half-graben of the central Kenya Rift Valley (Fig.1).  It carries an important role and acts as a large ‘sponge’ by retaining water and moderating its flow and is a habitat for crocodile and over 100 species of birds. The swamp is fed by two large warm springs (Lake Bogoria Hotel Spring and Chelaba Spring – 1 and 2 in figure 1) at its southern end. A smaller spring, Turtle Spring (3 on figure 1), discharges to the west of the swamp, together with many small seeps. These three springs were flowing into the swamp in 1888 (Von Hohnel, 1891, p.8). Other springs probably discharge within the wetland (Ashley et al., 2004). The climate is semi arid receiving precipitation of 700mm per year and mean annual temperature of 23-25 c. Some of the wetland water is used for irrigation currently. The swamp is dominated by Typhadomingensisper(approximately 80%) and floating Cyperuspapayrus l.(20%).

Fig.1:  Map of Loboi Swamp showing the Papyrus and Typha zones of the swamp, the Loboi River (N) and (S) and the springs feeding into the swamp:  (1) Lake Bogoria Hotel Spring, (2) Chelaba Spring and (3) Turtle Spring.

This ecosystem has an important role for biodiversity, recreation, livelihoods and other services for local populations. However few studies have been carried out to study the hydrology, biodiversity, and resource uses of this ecosystem.  It is known that the swamp has reduced by over 60% in the last 30 years due to irrigation, harvesting of papyrus and reclamation of land.  In addition the rivers of the region are prone to changes associated with tectonic movements and El Nino such as the change in direction of flow of the Loboi River (S) during the El Nino of 1997 (Harper et al., 2003).

The discovery of a new subspecies of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromisniloticus) from one of its warm water springs at the Lake Bogoria Hotel is an indication of the importance of this swamp to biodiversity and human livelihoods.  This species is able to survive the low oxygen high temperatures of the spring and would have a great potential in the development of aquaculture strains for Kenya.This discover is also an indication that there may be more unknown and undescribed species within this ecosystem.  In order to facilitate sound management and conservation of the swamp and its ecosystem services, a multidisciplinary research team is required to study all aspects of biodiversity including the water quality, ground water flows and hydrology of the swamp.

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