Lake Tanganyika warming is unprecedented

May 20, 2010 at 11:17 AM

TUCSON, May 20 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say warming occurring in Africa's Lake Tanganyika is unprecedented and might be a harbinger of what will occur in the United States.

Researchers led by University of Arizona Professor Andrew Cohen say they have determined Lake Tanganyika's surface waters are currently warmer than at any time in 1,500 years, causing a decline in the productivity of the lake, which has the second-largest inland fishery in Africa.

The scientists said their study marks the first detailed record of temperature and its impacts on a tropical African ecosystem from warming attributed to human activity.

The annual catch of the Lake Tanganyika fishery is estimated at about 198,000 tons annually -- more than 20 times greater than the U.S. commercial fishery in the Great Lakes, Cohen said. The nations of Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo border the lake, which is the longest in the world and the second deepest.

The researchers said their findings have implications for lakes in more temperate climates.

"Increasingly, lakes in the U.S. are warming and they're behaving more like these African lakes," Cohen said. "There's a potential for learning a lot about where we're going by seeing where those lakes already are."

The study that included scientists from Brown University and the U.S. Geological Survey is to appear in the June issue of the journal nature Geoscience.

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