Ecological restoration of papyrus wetlands at Lake Naivasha, Kenya: social and ecological considerations
2013-09-13T09:26:48Z (GMT) by
Papyrus swamps form ecological buffer zones at the land-water interface, protecting lake shallows from sedimentation and reducing the risk of eutrophication in open water. Many communities living near papyrus swamps, particularly in East Africa, derive socioeconomic benefits from these highly productive ecosystems. Loss of the buffering capacity of papyrus at Lake Naivasha, Kenya, explains much of the observed increase in the lake’s trophic state. Multiple authors have called for Naivasha’s wetlands to be restored; however, the social and ecological factors that would need to be considered before doing so have received insufficient attention. Case studies of recent restoration programmes at Lake Victoria illustrate the means by which degraded wetlands can be rehabilitated. Analysis of attitudes towards papyrus at Lake Naivasha reveals a general lack of awareness surrounding the benefits of local wetlands, forming a potential barrier to successful restoration there. An assessment of the lake’s riparian zone demonstrates that both anthropogenic and natural pressures present significant challenges for the survival of lake-fringing wetlands, highlighting changes that have occurred within the ecosystem over the last few decades. Potential means of addressing both the social and ecological limitations to papyrus restoration are offered, with explicit linkages to the benefits of doing so made clear. Floating islands are shown to be the most appropriate reference for ecological restoration at Lake Naivasha, which can be replicated through artificial technology. The establishment of a consumptive use value for harvested papyrus at Naivasha would help to raise stakeholders’ awareness of wetlands; a novel means of producing biomass briquettes was met with positive responses from local residents and may be used to encourage community participation in restoration. A vision for wise use of this internationally renowned Ramsar site is set out, with recommendations made as to how papyrus wetlands could be managed sustainably over the long term.