Brown professor says decline in fishery production's due to climate change

The lake, which holds approximately 15 percent of the world’s freshwater and is one of the planet’s most biologically diverse lakes. | File photo

A recent study on fishery production in Lake Tanganyika in southeast Africa found that human-caused climate change is warming water temperatures and decreasing the lake’s fish population.

“We found that lake warming, and particularly the unprecedented warming in the last 100 years, has resulted in large declines in the abundance of fish, snails and other organisms,” Brown associate professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences Jim Russel, who co-authored the study with Arizona professor Andrew Cohen, said. “The fish decline started before there was much commercial fishing in the lake, which ramped up in the middle of the last century. So we were able to conclude that temperature plays a major role in the decline, not just overfishing.”

The lake, which holds approximately 15 percent of the world’s freshwater and is one of the planet’s most biologically diverse lakes, is also a critical fishery, serving as a food and revenue source for millions of people.

“Tanganyika’s fish stocks are under pressure from both climate change and overfishing," Russel said. "The fishery will have to be managed via catch limits or similar mechanisms that take climate-driven fish declines into account. Perhaps more importantly, the surest way to mitigate the impacts of climate change is to limit the magnitude of climate change itself…It is critically important that the United States and other countries meet their emissions targets to mitigate the impacts of climate change on ecosystems such as Lake Tanganyika.”

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