Lakes and Wetlands in Central Africa
Several lakes can be seen in this part of Central Africa. The large lake crossing the image from the top center to the middle is Lake Tanganyika in central Africa. The lake is divided between four countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, with the DRC (45%) and Tanzania (41%) possessing the majority of the lake.
It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest, in both cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. The water flows into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.
To the East of Lake Tanganyika is Lake Rukwa, in southwestern Tanzania. The waters of the alkaline Lake Rukwa appear brown here, in contrast to the navy blue of the other lakes in the area.
Rukwa lies at an elevation of about 800 metres, in a parallel branch of the rift system. The lake has seen large fluctuations in its size over the years, due to varying inflow of streams. Currently it is about 180 km long and averages about 32 km wide, making it about 5760 square kilometres in size.
South of Lake Tanganyika is the smaller Lake Mweru (also spelled Mwelu), located on the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is a freshwater lake on the longest arm of the Congo River. Lake Mweru makes up 110 km of the total length of the Congo, lying between its Luapula River (upstream) and Luvua River (downstream) segments.
Finally, Lake Bangweulu can be seen southeast of Lake Mweru, at the very bottom. It is part of one of the world’s great wetland systems, comprised of the lake itself, the Bangweulu Swamps and the Bangweulu Flats or floodplain.
Situated in the upper Congo River basin in Zambia, the Bangweulu system covers an almost completely flat area roughly the size of Connecticut or East Anglia, at an elevation of 1,140 m straddling Zambia’s Luapula Province and Northern Province.
It is crucial to the economy and biodiversity of northern Zambia, and to the birdlife of a much larger region, and faces environmental stress and conservation issues.