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Lake Malawi Biodiversity (Ambassador Report for May 2022)

by Prince Foley | 12-05-2022 00:15 recommendations 2

Located at the southern end of the great expanse of Lake Malawi, the property is of global importance for biodiversity conservation due particularly to its fish diversity. Lying within the Western Rift Valley, Lake Malawi is one of the deepest lakes in the world. The property is an area of exceptional natural beauty with the rugged landscapes around it contrasting with the remarkably clear waters of the lake. The property is home to many hundreds of cichlid fish, nearly all of which are endemic to Lake Malawi, and are known locally as "mbuna". The mbuna fishes display a significant example of biological evolution. Due to the isolation of Lake Malawi from other water bodies, its fish have developed impressive adaptive radiation and speciation, and are an outstanding example of the ecological processes.
The property is an area of exceptional natural beauty with its islands and clear waters set against the background of the Great African Rift Valley escarpment. Habitat types vary from rocky shorelines to sandy beaches and from wooded hillsides to swamps and lagoons. Granitic hills rise steeply from lakeshore and there are a number of sandy bays. 

The property is an outstanding example of biological evolution. Adaptive radiation and speciation are particularly noteworthy in the small brightly coloured rocky-shore tilapiine cichlids (rockfish), known locally as mbuna. All but five of over 350 species of mbuna are endemic to Lake Malawi and represented in the park. Lake Malawi's cichlids are considered of equal value to science as the finches of the Galapagos Islands remarked on by Charles Darwin or the honeycreepers of Hawaii.

Lake Malawi is globally important for biodiversity conservation due to its outstanding diversity of its fresh water fishes. The property is considered to be a separate bio-geographical province with estimates of up to c.1000 species of fish half occurring within the property: estimated as the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. Endemism is very high: of particular significance are the cichlid fish, of which all but 5 of over 350 species are endemic. The lake contains 30% of all known cichlids species in the world. The property is also rich in other fauna including mammals, birds and reptiles.

The property is sufficiently large (94.1 km2 of which 7km2 is aquatic zone) to adequately represent the water features and processes that are of importance for long term conservation of the lake's rich biodiversity and exceptional natural beauty. The water area within the national park protects the most important elements of the lake's biodiversity. It also protects all major underwater vegetation types and important breeding sites for the cichlids. Many other fish species of Lake Malawi are however unprotected due to the limited size of the park in relation to the overall area of the lake. Thus, at the time of inscription the World Heritage Committee recommended that the area of the national park be extended. The property's long term integrity largely depends on the overall conservation and management of the lake which falls under the jurisdiction of three sovereign states i.e. Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Lake Malawi National Park is protected under national legislation and the resources of the park are managed and controlled by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.

The park has a management plan and, there is also a strategic tourism management plan for Malawi which describes the tourism development for the site. Utilisation of park resources is restricted to curb the illegal harvesting of resources. There are five villages included within enclaves inside the property. The local population is dependent on fishing for a livelihood as the soil is poor and crop failure frequency is high. Whilst the property's terrestrial and underwater habitats are still in good condition, management planning needs to deal more effectively with the threats of rapid growth of human population and the impacts of firewood collection, fish poaching and crowded fish landing sites. Thus a key management priority is the maintenance of the lake ecosystem while taking into consideration the needs of the local community through collaborative management programmes. The implementation of the Wildlife Policy that mandates park management to work in collaboration with local communities within and outside park boundaries and share responsibilities and benefits accruing from the management of the park is important to enable effective management to be implemented. Potential threats from introduced fish species which could displace endemics, pollution from boats and siltation from the denuded hills, need to be minimised and require close monitoring. Collaboration with the governments of Tanzania and Mozambique needs to be maintained and strengthened for the long term protection and management of the entire lake ecosystem, and consideration of the potential for its extension is required. 
Sunset at lake MalawiBeautiful lake MalawiLake MalawiSailing at lake Malawi


  • Malawi Youth Prince Foley
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Eco Generation

  • Eco Generation says :
    Hello Prince!
    Thanks for the amazing report.
    Seeing the reference photo in your report makes me want to go there. :)
    Posted 20-06-2022 08:25

  • Joon Mentor says :
    Hello Prince, this is your mentor Joon.

    Such a beautiful scenery out there! It is good to know that terrestrial and underwater habitat remains is good shape. However, one should never put down its mind as changes, and shifts happen all of a sudden. We should carefully look for signals that nature sends us and do our best to protect them. Collaboration with local communities are crucial too. As population grows, it is natural to have demands and food supplies, yet it should not be oversupplied and keeping sufficient level of biodiversity is always important. Communities should set the rule on how much to gather so that current state could be remained.

    Well read your article, and let's keep up!


    Posted 15-05-2022 00:20

  • Vivian Nabisere says :
    Thank you for sharing with us💚💚💚
    Posted 13-05-2022 04:51

  • Chelwoon Mentor says :
    Hello Prince, this is your mentor Chelwoon.

    You pointed out a very important factor that should be considered to protect biodiversity! In some cases, Introduced species were a major threat to the biodiversity of areas where they are introduced. In Korea, Pink Muhly Grass is a flower specie which Koreans really love. Many Koreans, including me visit places only for taking pictures with the Pink Muhly Grass. However, in the last few days, all the Pink Muhly Grass have been removed from public places. Pink Muhly Grass was classified as a possible harmful induced specie to the Korean ecosystem several weeks ago. I hope we can protect the Lake Malawi??s diversity safety.

    Thank you for the article!


    Posted 12-05-2022 21:58

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