The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Publication

Reinthal, P. 1993. Evaluating biodiversity and conserving Lake Malawi cichlid fish fauna. Conservation Biology 7 (3): 712-718.  

The cichlid fishes of the Great Lakes of Africa are extraordinary biological assemblages. Conservation strategies are urgently needed for these fish faunas, due to increased threats from over-fishing, habitat degradation and species introductions. Here I investigate the patterns of biodiversity of the rock-dwelling cichlid fishes (known as mbuna) of Lake Malawi and present a series of recommendations to enhance their conservation Specifically, I examine intralacustrine biogeographic distributions and diversity, and levels of endemism for both mbuna species and genera The biogeographic patterns show a high degree of variation for both taxonomic designations. Significant relationships are found between diversity and distribution patterns. Speciose genera are more widespread and habitats close to other lands support higher biodiversity than in isolated islands. The results indicate that the genus level may be the appropriate taxonomic designation to consider for conservation purposes, and that areas of high generic endemism such as the Maleri Islands, are significant for conservation. In order to account for geographic variation in biodiversity, consideration should be given to expanding Lake Malawi National Park boundaries to include areas in the northern and central parts of the lake, especially Likoma and Chisumulu Islands and Nkhata Bay. I discuss the establishment of an international park and the expansion of conservation efforts to include the non-mbuna cichlids. An ecosystem approach to biodiversity conservation and management is advocated.




free hit counters