The wetlands of Lake Chad continue to disappear due to drought and intensified anthropogenic uses with concerns for life extending not only for the migratory birds which seasonally inhabit the area or the various flora and fauna found among the shallow lake, but for the livelihoods of the local people as well. Located on the boarders of Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon in West Africa, the permanent shallow lake expands with seasonal rain and floods the surrounding grassland and savannah, though increasing demands for use and climatic changes have reduced the extension of the lake dramatically (FAO 2009)
Wetlands of Lake Chad, Africa
The once great lake, the fourth largest body of water on the African continent, has now diminised to nearly 1/20th its size in 1960 (Franz 2001) from approximately 25,000 km2 to 1,350 km2 (FAO 2009).
NASA climate forcasters estimate, with current consumption patterns and climatic variables, Lake Chad will have disappeared by 2030 (FAO 2009).
The causes behind the disappearing wetlands and freshwater resources involve escalating demands for agricultural irrigation projects, overgrazing and pastural expansion (Coe and Foley 2001), and a warming climate with decreased precipitation (UNEP 2008).
An extended drought and land use changes are the primary drivers of the lake's disappearance over the past half century (FAO 2009).
Overgrazing of pasturelands throughout the region has lead to deforestation and contributed to a drier local climate (FAO 2009).
Another anthropogenic driver towards scarcity in the region involves the over-consumption of the water resources through large unsustaining irrigation projects for the surrounding area that divert freshwater from the Chari and Logone Rivers (UNEP 2008).
An increase in water demands quickly accelerated between 1983 and 1994, with irrigation increasing four-fold (UNEP 2008).
The unsustainable use of land and freshwater resources of the Lake Chad area have led to the degradation of Lake Chad and its wetlands.
A UNEP report explains that the "changes in the lake have contributed to local lack of water, crop failures, livestock deaths, collapsed fisheries, soil salinity, and increasing poverty throughout the region" (UNEP 2008).
A 60 percent decline in fish production in addition to the degradation of pastures has led to deficiency in animal feed of an estimated 45 percent in 2006, affecting the carrying capacity of the land for livestock (UNEP 2008).
Invasive plant species have successfully established in the area, which consists of 50 percent of the vegetation in the Lake Chad ecosystems and contributing to the decline of biodiversity (FAO 2009).
The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) regulates and controls resources of the area and is actively seeking new methods of water management.LCBC explains that the significant decrease of water flow in the Chari and Lagone rivers will require new management techniques that promote efficient use, with additional research to find new sources of freshwater for the region (FAO 2009).
Franzen, H. 2001. Lake Chad is disappearing. Scientific American, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=lake-chad-is-disappearing (Accessed 20 October 2009)
UNEP. 2008. Vital Water Graphics - An Overview of the State of the World's Fresh and Marine Waters. 2nd Edition. UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN: 92-807-2236-0 http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/water2/page/3262.aspx (Accessed 20 October 2009)
FAO. Lake Chad facing humanitarian disaster. Media Center, http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/36126/icode/ (Accessed 19 October 2009)
Coe, M., and J. Foley. 2001. Human and natural impacts on the water resources of the Lake Chad basin, J. Geophys. Res., 106 (4): 3349-56.
UNEP/GRID-Arendal, Lake Chad: almost gone, UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library, http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/lake-chad-almost-gone (Accessed 20 October 2009)