Fire, Land Use, Climate and Vegetation Change at Lake Victoria, Eastern Africa

Fire and land use are important disturbance factors in tropical ecosystems, together with other disturbances such as drought, floods and heat waves they act at annual to decadal scales, driving vegetation, erosional and eutrophication dynamics.  Climate-change impacts operate at temporal scales over >30 years and deal more with averages (e.g. mean July temperatures, mean annual temperatures) than extremes or singularities.

In this project we reconstruct disturbance and climate impacts on vegetation and the Lake Victoria biota (e.g. fish, invertebrates) and limnology (e.g. eutrophication through land use). The effort is part of a large Swiss National Science Foundation SINERGIA project devoted to reconstruct rapid fish evolution under the strongly changing environmental conditions of the Postglacial.  Novel high-resolution (reaching 10 years) radiocarbon-dated pollen, macrofossil, spore, and charcoal records will be gained from Lake Victoria to reconstruct vegetation, fire, browsing, and agriculture dynamics during the past >12000 years. The linkages between fish evolution, limnological dynamics, climatic variability, fire activity, browsing disturbance, forest dynamics and land-use changes will be explored in collaboration with other groups based at University of Bern and elsewhere in Europe by using concerted multiproxy approaches such as fish remain, invertebrate, aDNA, XRF and HIS analyses.

Coring at Lake Victoria
Sediment coring in 2018 at Lake Victoria, Tanzania ©Moritz Muschick
Coring site at Lake Victoria
Coring site at Lake Victoria © Moritz Muschick



Yunuén Temoltzin Loranca, Erika Gobet, Christoph Schwörer, Willy Tinner


Martin Grosjean, Ole Seehausen, Flavio Anselmetti, Sönke Szidat, Oliver Heiri

Sediment coring at Lake Viktoria
© Petra Boltshauser-Kaltenrieder