Lake Muzahi, Rwanda: limnological features and phytoplankton production

R. Mukankomeje, P. D. Plisnier, J. P. Descy, L. Massaut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lake Muhazi, a small lake of Rwanda (East Africa) was studied from 1986 to 1990. A dramatic decrease of the catch of Oreochromis niloticus (350 T y-1 in the fifties vs 30 T y-1 in 1982) suggested a loss of productivity or overfishing. In the same period, other ecological changes occurred: the submerged macrophytes regressed and there was a decrease in Secchi depth (0.65 m in 1987 vs 1.5 m in the fifties). Compared to other lakes of the same area, the plankton production seemed low. The results of the present study characterize lake Muhazi as a shallow lake with a rather unstable diurnal stratification and with slight differences in mixing regime between its eastern, deepest part and its western, shallowest part. Secchi disk depth does not vary seasonally to a large extent. The water has a rather high mineral content (conductivity of about 500 μS cm-1 at 25 °C) and low concentrations of dissolved N and P, except in the hypolimnion, where NH inf4 sup+ -N can be high. Two species, Microcystis aeruginosa and Ceratium hirundinella, account for most of the phytoplankton biomass, which is about 50-80 mg chlorophyll a m-2 in the euphotic zone, usually with little seasonal variation. Daily gross production estimates amount to about 6 to 9.5 g O2 m-2 d-1 with a significant difference between the two parts of the lake. Data on C:N and C:P ratio in the phytoplankton suggest that some N deficiency might occur in the eastern part. Moreover, the Zm:Zc ratio could also lead to rather low net production rates (0.21-0.25 d-1 for a mixed layer of 4 m) In conclusion, the primary production of lake Muhazi is medium for African lakes and the hypothesis that decreased planktonic production could account for a reduced fish production should be discarded. Whereas the present yield of the fishery is only 20 kg ha-1 y-1, the yield estimated from primary production ranges between 46 and 64 kg ha-1 y-1. This could be reached through proper management. Finally, some hypotheses are given to explain the ecological changes which occurred in the lake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-120
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 1993


  • Africa
  • fish production
  • Lake Muhazi
  • phytoplankton production
  • Rwanda
  • tropical lakes


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