The ecology of livelihoods in East African papyrus wetlands (ECOLIVE)

Type Journal Article - Reviews in Environmental Science and BioTechnology
Title The ecology of livelihoods in East African papyrus wetlands (ECOLIVE)
Volume 10
Issue 4
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
Page numbers 291-300
Cyperus papyrus, a fast-growing tropical sedge from
central, eastern, and southern Africa (Fig. 1) forms
extensive wetlands that are important to biodiversity
and the livelihoods of millions of people. Cyperus
papyrus (from here on ‘‘papyrus’’) can grow as high as
5 m, and it occurs in nearly monoculture stands,
creating extensive areas of wetlands in river valleys
and near lake edges in eastern, central and southern
Africa. In this project update, we review the ecological
characteristics and livelihood services of papyrus
wetlands in East Africa and describe the interdisciplinary
research project ‘‘The Ecology of Livelihoods
in East African Wetlands’’ (ECOLIVE) that investigates
the functioning of these wetlands. The ultimate
goal of the ECOLIVE project is to examine how ecology
and hydrology interact with livelihood activities
in order to understand how sustainability of ecosystem
services can be achieved.
Generally, papyrus wetlands occur in river valleys
and on lake edges between latitudes 17 N and 29 S and
between sea level and an altitude of about 2,000 m
(Jones and Muthuri 1985). Papyrus does not occur in
West Africa, probably because of the stronger hydrological
seasonality of the rivers there (Thompson 1976,
1985). The total surface area covered by papyrus
wetlands is not known and also varies seasonally.
Extensive papyrus wetlands are found e.g. in the Sudd
wetlands in Sudan, Lake Chad, around Lake Victoria, at
Lake Naivasha in Kenya, Lake Kioga and many other
wetlands in Uganda, in the Akagera river floodplain in
Rwanda and the Malagarasi-Muyovosi wetlands in
Tanzania, along the major rivers in Malawi, Zambia
and Zimbabwe, in the Okavango delta in Botswana, and
the Zambezi delta in Mozambique.

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