The Wetland Book pp 1381-1391 | Cite as

Soda Lakes of the Rift Valley (Kenya)

  • Simon Agembe
  • William Ojwang
  • Casianes Olilo
  • Reuben Omondi
  • Collins Ongore
Reference work entry


Soda lakes are alkaline with pH values ranging from 8 to 12 and characterized by high concentrations of principal ions such as Na+, HCO, CO32−, and Cl. Kenya is endowed with many soda lakes forming part of the East African Rift Valley system and includes lakes Bogoria, Nakuru, Elementeita, and Magadi. In addition, Lake Turkana is located on the Kenya-Ethiopian border further north. These lakes are characterized by steep fault escarpments, deep gorges, canyons, and craters on the rift floor, some of which have gushing geysers and hot springs. Historically, the lakes were thought to have been one continuous system called Lake Kamatian. Reconstruction of the history of the four lakes based on dated sedimentary time-series data reveal unique hydrological, ecological, and species richness trends that have fluctuated through time between alkaline and freshwater conditions. In spite of their apparent inhospitality, these soda lakes are among the most productive aquatic environments on earth and support a great diversity of species, some which are endemic, rare, and endangered. This apparently unique phenomenon has been attributed to the virtually unlimited availability of dissolved carbon dioxide. Other ecosystem services provided by the lakes include habitats for biota including the famous populations of flamingos and rare and threatened mammals, supply of water for domestic use and irrigation, thermal energy, pasture, and recreational and cultural contributions. Currently, Kenya’s soda lakes face various challenges, ranging from climate change and water extraction to direct habitat modification, all of which may have significant impacts on existing biodiversity. Even though the lakes are generally referred to as soda lakes, each has its distinct qualities in terms of biogeochemical attributes.


Alkaline lakes Hydrochemistry Biodiversity Kenya Rift valley lakes Soda lakes 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI)MombasaKenya
  2. 2.Department of Fisheries and Aquatic SciencesUniversity of EldoretEldoretKenya
  3. 3.Department of Applied Aquatic SciencesKisii UniversityKisiiKenya

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