Upwelling couples chemical and biological dynamics across the littoral and pelagic zones of Lake Tanganyika, East Africa

J. R. Corman, P. B. McIntyre, B. Kuboja, W. Mbemba, D. Fink, C. W. Wheeler, C. Gans, E. Michel, A. S. Flecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We studied the effects of upwelling on nutrient and phytoplankton dynamics in the pelagic and littoral zones of Lake Tanganyika near Kigoma, Tanzania. During the dry season of 2004, a rise in the thermocline and sudden drop in surface water temperatures indicated a substantial upwelling event. Increases in concentrations of nitrate, soluble reactive phosphorus, and silica in the surface waters occurred simultaneously after the temperature drop. Within days, chlorophyll a concentrations increased and remained elevated, while inorganic nutrient concentrations returned to preupwelling levels and organic nutrient concentrations peaked. We observed parallel temporal patterns of water temperature, nutrient concentrations, and phytoplankton chlorophyll in both the pelagic and the littoral zones, demonstrating that upwelling strongly affects the nearshore ecosystem as well as the pelagic zone. Concurrent records from 12 littoral sites indicated spatial variation in the timing, magnitude, and biological response to upwelling. There was no discernable latitudinal pattern in the timing of upwelling, suggesting that mixing did not result from a progressive wave. Our monitoring, as well as other multiyear studies, suggests that dry-season upwelling occurs during most years in northern Lake Tanganyika. The observed sensitivity of littoral nutrients and phytoplankton to upwelling suggests that reductions in upwelling due to global climate change could strongly affect the dynamics of the spectacular nearshore ecosystem of Lake Tanganyika, as has been proposed for the pelagic zone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-224
Number of pages11
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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