Bangweulu Wetlands Ecosystem, Zambia
The Bangweulu Wetlands Ecosystem covers a large area exhibiting great biodiversity. It comprises the Bangweulu Swamps and associated grassy floodplain known as the Bangweulu Flats, in northern Zambia, surrounding most of Lake Bangweulu except to the west. Unfortunately, the ecosystem is under environmental stress and in need of conservation.
With a long axis of 75 km and a width of up to 40 km, Lake Bangweulu’s permanent open water surface is about 3,000 km², which expands when its swamps and floodplains are in flood at the end of the rainy season in May. The combined area of the lake and wetlands reaches 15,000 km². The lake has an average depth of only 4 m.
The Bangweulu system is fed by about seventeen rivers of which the Chambeshi (the source of the Congo River) is the largest, and is drained by the Luapula River.
The environmental stress is caused by human settlement and hunting (especially of the black lechwe), fishing, and cattle-grazing. Some of the chiefs of the area have attempted to regulate fishing and hunting, but many in the Bangweulu basin are affected by poverty and do not have viable alternatives to support themselves.
Not helping matters is the fact that the wetlands today do not include a viable wildlife reserve. The Isangano National Park in the north-east is defunct, having no management or protection.