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Climate variability as recorded in Lake Tanganyika (CLIMLAKE)

Research project EV/02 (Research action EV)

Persons :

Description :

Predictive climate models based on observations from the present and instrumental period must be extended to historical periods from proxies (sediments, ice cores, pollen, tree rings). This is an important objective of several international programs (IGBP/PAGE, IDEAL). East African lakes are particularly interesting in this prospect because they are highly sensitive to climate variability (Johnson and Odada, 1996).
The density stratification and stability of tropical lakes fluctuate widely at high water temperature (Lewis, 1996). For this reason, lake hydrodynamics, which are heavily dependent of weather conditions, govern nutrient distribution in the water column, thereby affecting phytoplankton and food web productivity. During El Niño, air T° is significantly greater in the intertropical area (Bradley et al, 1987) as observed at Lake Tanganyika (Plisnier, 1998). This influences the lake stability, nutrient distribution, and planktonic communities. Diatoms are valuable indicators of such environmental and climate changes over hundreds/thousands of years (Gasse et al., 1995) while information over the instrumental period may also be obtained from molluscs shells geochemistry.

In the anoxic waters of a deep lake as Lake Tanganyika, laminated sediments are well preserved which constitute proxies of world interest. It is however essential to correctly interpret the source of those variations. This has to be based on a series of high frequency measurement of many environmental variables ideally integrated into a descriptive and interpretative model. We propose to carry out a study of the present ecological conditions in Lake Tanganyika as influenced by climate, and to develop a model (ECO-HYDRO) to be used as a tool for interpretation of the proxy records observed in the lake.

The ECO-HYDRO model will be developed in three steps:

(1) Present conditions: (2001-03): Implementation of a 3D hydrological model based on the CLIO model (Coupled Large-scale Ice Ocean) of UCL using data on weather, hydrodynamics, and integration into the ECO-HYDRO 3D of data and relationships on nutrient availability, planktonic production, plankton community structure and geochemistry.
(2) Instrumental period: (last 0-100 years): ECO-HYDRO Model tuning based on molluscs geochemistry, past limnological and weather data.
(3) Historical period: (last 1500 years): Application of ECO-HYDRO Model based mainly on relative abundance and productivity of diatoms in sediments.

We will particularly focus on the high resolution necessary to study interannual modes of variability such as ENSO (3 to 7 years). Our ECO-HYDRO model will be used with forcing conditions issued from general and regional circulation models collaborating closely with atmospheric modellers (Prof. Semazzi and his team). Local lake and weather conditions will be related to broad patterns of atmospheric and oceanographic conditions (Semazzi et al, 1996).

The results will be used to:

(1) analyse the time series of climate conditions during the last 1500 years (cycles, trend, comparison of natural vs industrialised period...),
(2) compare the series obtained with paleo-series recorded from various sites, particularly in Europe to investigate historical global teleconnections
(3) provide climate modellers with high resolution paleo-series necessary to validate high resolution forecasting models aiming at forecasting interannual variability, including ENSO. Annually resolved tropical paleoclimatic reconstructions of the upper Holocene are of direct relevance to understanding the longer period modulation of the ENSO and monsoon phenomena (Duplessy and Overpeck, 1996).


- Set-up of a new program for data acquisition, consisting of meteorological measurements (continuous) and limnological sampling (biweekly) at two stations of Lake Tanganyika during 3 years (2002 - 2004);

- Development of an hydrodynamic model for predicting upwelling and internal waves from wind pattern and velocity and other relevant variables available from existing data sets of previous studies; validation of the model will be carried out with the new data acquired in the study;

- Use of trace elements indicators (Sr, B, Ba, Mn, Rare Earth Elements, Cd, Zn, Pb, Cu) in order to quantify the water movements;

- Test a bivalve mollusc (Pleiodon spekii) as a recorder for environmental change using microdrill and laser ablation with ICP-MS to perform reliable weekly to daily trace element distributions in chemically marked shells. After validation, we hope to use these shells to study past changes during the instrumental period (last 100 years) and tune the model;

- Use a new isotopic indicator (based on silicon isotopes) to track changes of diatom production in the surface waters by calibration against primary production measurements and other productivity proxies (e.g. Ba excess);

- Use of limnological indicators, in particular phytoplankton composition, which responds in the short term (days, weeks) to fluctuations of various factors (light, temperature, mixing regime, nutrient inputs to surface layers);

- Continuation of analysis of sediment cores addressing environmental change in Lake Tanganyika during the past 1500 years using diatoms, sedimentology and other proxies;

- Development of a descriptive lake model integrating climate and weather data, hydrodynamics, nutrient availability, primary production, plankton community structure and geochemical indicators;

- Development of a predictive model to relate climate change and ecosystem function.

Interaction between the different partners

During a first period of 3 years, three teams (Namur - FUNDP, Gent (RUG) and Tervuren MRAC-KMMA) are developing a monitoring (in partnerships with Zambian and Tanzanian colleagues) collecting and analysing data in several fields (limnology, plankton and geochemistry mainly). During the first 2 years, a fourth team (UCL) is developing an hydrodynamic model based on previous observations. This information will be updated and tuned at the end of the second year of monitoring with recent data. Ecological information will then be implemented with the hydrodynamic model to constitute a multidisciplinary tool to be used for sediment interpretation and obtaining past climate information. The model will finally be used in the frame of climate change scenarios to forecast possible environmental changes.

Link with international programmes

- The project fits the objectives of IGBP's Core Project PAGES ("Global Paleoclimate and Environmental Variability"). It aims to study the past climate variability (Timestream 1: Holocene with special emphasis on the last 2000 yr.) in a site along the PEP-3 (Pole-Equator-Pole (Afro-European) Transect. - The project is closely collaborating with IDEAL (International Decade for the East African Lakes), a program that is part of PAGES..

- The project meets also the aims of WCR/CLIVAR as it will improve the understanding of decadal to century scale climate variability, especially as relevant to improving predictability, through the use of high resolution paleoclimatic data as well as building a model dealing with the impact of the actual climate variability and changes on a great lake ecosystem.

- The project also corresponds to the themes defined in Key Action 2 "Global change, climate and biodiversity" of the "Energy, Environment & Sustainable Development" Programme of EC DG-XII.

- The CLIMLAKE project works in close collaboration with two African research institutes: TAFIRI (Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute) in Tanzania and DOF (Departement of Fisheries) in Zambia.

Expected results/outputs

- The project is presented in a web site that is updated every 6 months (;

- Beside the international peer review publications, the project will present data adapted to diverse types of audiences (scientific, politics, general public...);

- An interdisciplinary database will be made available to the climate modellers. It will hold three types of information: (a) Lake Tanganyika information (limnology), (b) regional data on climate, (c) global data indices;

- The results of the project (paleo-climate series) will be made available to the international research community. This is a participation of Belgium researchers to important international climate research program such as IGBP/PAGE;

- This research is part of the international effort dealing with the global warming issue. The records of global signals and their comparisons, particularly for the recent Holocene is a key point to understand actual climate changes;

- An international symposium will be organised on "The African Rift Great Lakes as recent and past climate impacts recorders";

- Climate-fisheries relationships will help to support the fisheries management and its sustainability at Lake Tanganyika.



Laboratoire d'Ecologie des Eaux Douces (FUNDP, Namur)

Limnological sampling (temperature, light, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, nutrient, meta-zooplankton, elemental analysis, pigments,...).

Section de Pétrographie-Minéralogie-Géochimie (MRAC-KMMA, Tervuren)

- Diatom productivity (silicon isotopes) and geochemistry of water, particles and mollusc shells.
- Database (climate, limnology..).

Laboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology (RUG, Gent)

- Study of the present phytoplankton (distribution, dynamics).
- Paleolimnological analysis of fossil diatoms in sediment cores.

Institut d'astronomie et de géophysique G. Lemaître (UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve)

- Building a 3D hydrodynamic model from wind pattern, velocity and other variables.
- Coupling to an ecological model in collaboration with all the teams.


Project co-ordinator
Jean-Pierre Descy (co-ordinator of network) and Pierre-Denis Plisnier
Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP) - Département de Biologie Unité de Recherches en Biologie des Organismes - Laboratoire d'Ecologie des Eaux Douces
Rue de Bruxelles 61, B-5000 Namur
Tel: +32 (0)81 72 44 05; Fax: +32 (0)81 23 03 91

Luc André, Laurent Alleman and Pierre-Denis Plisnier
Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (MRAC-KMMA) - Section de Pétrographie-Minéralogie-Géochimie
Leuvensesteenweg 13, B-3080 Tervuren
Tel: +32 (0)2 769 54 59; Fax: +32 (0)2 769 54 32

Wim Vyverman and Dr Christine Cocquyt
Universiteit Gent (RUG) - Section of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology (PAE)
Krijgslaan 281, S 8, B-9000 Gent
Tel: +32 (0)9 264 85 01; Fax: +32 (0)9 264 85 99

Eric Deleersnijder and Jaya Naithani
Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) - Institut d'astronomie et de géophysique G. Lemaître (ASTR)
2, Chemin du Cyclotron, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
Tel: +32 (0)10 47 32 97; Fax: +32 (0)10 47 47 22

Users Committee

C. Mertens - Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FRDO-CFDD) - Permanent Secretary

G. Demarée - Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (IRM-KMI) - Climatology Department

A. Cohen - University of Arizona - Dept. of Geosciences, USA

Documentation :

Climate variability as recorded in Lake Tanganyika (CLIMLAKE) : final report  Descy, J.-P. - Plisnier, P.-D. - Leporcq, B ... et al  Brussels : Belgian science Policy, 2006 (SP1597)
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Bibliografic references :

Differential response of phytoplankton to nitrogen, phosporus and iron additions in Lake Tanganyika.  De Wever A, Muylaert K, Langlet D, Alleman L, Descy JP, André L, Cocquyt C, Vyverman W  Freshwater Biology, (subm.) 

A microtome for sectioning lake sediment cores on a very high resolution  Cocquyt C. & Y. Israël  Journal of Paleolimnolgy, 32, 2004 

A numerical study of free and forced thermocline oscillations in Lake Tanganyika, Environmental Fluid Mechanics  Deleersnijder E., J.-P. Descy, J. Naithani, P.-D. Plisnier & E. Wolanski. to be submitted., 2005b 

Abundance and biomass of heterotrophic micro-organisms in Lake Tanganyika  Pirlot S., J. Vanderheyden, J.-P. Descy & P. Servais Freshwater Biology, 50, 6, 2005 

Amphora calumeticoides spec. nov. (Bacillariophyta), an endemic diatom from Lake Tanganyika  Cocquyt C. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 29 (4), 2003 

Analysis of wind-induced thermocline oscillations of Lake Tanganyika  Naithani, J. Deleersnijder, E. Plisnier, P. D. Environmental Fluid Mechanics, 3, 2003 

Are there internal Kelvin waves in Lake Tanganyika?  Naithani, J. Deleersnijder, E. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, 2004 

Climate change decreases aquatic ecosystem productivity in Lake Tanganyika, Africa  O'REILLY C.M., S.R. ALIN, P.-D. PLISNIER, A.S. COHEN & B.A. MCKEE Nature, 424, 2003 

Climate Variability as recorded in Lake Tanganyika (CLIMLAKE)  J.-P. Descy, P.-D. Plisnier, B. Leporcq, S. Sténuite, S.Pirlot, J. Stimart, V.Gosselain, L. André, L. Alleman, D. Langlet, W. Vyverman, C. Cocquyt, A. De Wever, M.P. Stoyneva, E. Deleersnijder, J. Naithani, D. Chitamwebwa, A; Chande, I. Kimirei, B. Sekad final report, 2006 

Climate Variability as recorded in Lake Tanganyika (CLIMLAKE)  Descy, J.-P., P.-D. Plisnier, L. Andre, L. Alleman, D. Chitamwebwa, C. Cocquyt, E. Deleersnijder, I. Kimrei, J. Naithani, H. Phiri, D. Sinyenza & W. Vyverman Bulletin of the International Decade for the East African Lakes, 2002 

Climate warming decreases aquatic ecosystem productivity of Lake Tanganyika, East Africa  O'REILLY C.M., S.R. ALIN, P.-D. PLISNIER, A.S. COHEN & B.A. MCKEE American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. San Francisco, USA, 2003 

CLIMLAKE progress report 2002  Descy, J.-P. & V. Gosselain (eds.)  Presses Universitaires de Namur, 2004 

Closteriopsis petkovii n. sp. - a new green alga from Lake Tanganyika.  Stoyneva M.P, C. Cocquyt, G. Gärtner & W. Vyverman.  Phyton., in press., 2004 

Diatomeeëngemeenschappen uit de pelagische en litorale zone van het Tanganyikameer  Cocquyt C. Mededelingen van de zittingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Overzeese Wetenschappen, 49, 2003 

Diatomeeëngemeenschappen uit de pelagische en litorale zone van het Tanganyikameer  Cocquyt C.  Bull. Séanc. Acad. R. Sci. Outre-Mer, 49, 2003 

Differential response of phytoplankton to nitrogen, phosporus and iron additions in Lake Tanganyika.  De Wever A, Muylaert K, Langlet D, Alleman L, Descy JP, André L, Cocquyt C, Vyverman W  Freshwater Biology, (subm.) 

Distribution and implication of silicon isotopic composition in marine and freshwaters  ALLEMAN L.Y., D. CARDINAL, I. KIMIREI & L. ANDRE Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 67 , 2003 

Ecology of Cyanobacteria  DESCY J.-P. & W. VYVERMAN , 2003 

Ecology: Climate-change effect on Lake Tanganyika? (reply)  O'Reilly, C. M., P. -D. Plisnier, A. S. Cohen & S. R. Alin Nature (15 July 2004); doi:10.1038 /Nature 02737 , 2004 

Environmental changes in the Lake Tanganyika : the Bivalve Monitoring  LANGLET D. & L. ANDRÉ XIIIe Congrès International de la S.F.M. La Rochelle, France, 2003 

Eremosphaera tanganyikae n.sp. (Trebouxiophyceae) - a new species from Lake Tanganyika  Stoyneva M.P, C. Cocquyt, G. Gärtner & W. Vyverman.  Belgian Journal of Botany,in press., 2003 

Food web dynamics in stable isotope ecology: Time integration of different trophic levels  O’REILLY C. M., P. VERBURG, R. E. HECKY, P.-D. PLISNIER & A. S. COHEN L. Seuront & P. Sutton (Eds.), Handbook of scaling methods in aquatic ecology: Measurement, analysis, simulation, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 2003 

Geochemical imprint on deep Tanganyika lake water from hydrothermalism, groundwater or riverine sources  ALLEMAN L.Y., L. ANDRE & P.-D. PLISNIER Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 5, EGS-AGU-EUG Joint Assembly, Nice, France, 2003 

Green algae in Lake Tanganyika: Is morphological variation a response o seasonal changes?  Stoyneva M.P, J.-P. Descy & W. Vyverman.  Hydrobiologia (in press), 2003 

Heden en verleden van diatomeeën in het Tanganyikameer  Cocquyt C. Koninklijke Academie voor Overzeese Wetenschappen, Brussels, Belgium, 2003 

Het Tanganyika-meer: Paleolimnologische studie van de laatste 1000 jaar  Cocquyt C. Diatomededelingen 26, 2002 

Heterotrophic bacteria in Lake Tanganyika food web  PIRLOT S., J.-P. DESCY & P. SERVAIS SEFS, Edinburgh, UK, 2003 

High-resolution study of laminated facies of sediment cores from Lake Tanganyika : are they annual ?  FRANCUS, P., C. COCQUYT & M. STURM Proceedings 9th International Paleolimnology Symposium. Espoo, Finland, 2003 

How well does the diatom record in recent sediments of Lake Tanganyika represent actual diatom communities in the pelagic?  COCQUYT C., E. VERLEYEN & W. VYVERMAN Proceedings 9th International Paleolimnology Symposium. Espoo, Finland, 2003 

Isotopic composition of silicon measured by multicollector plasma source mass spectrometry in dry plasma mode  CARDINAL D., L.Y. ALLEMAN, J. DE JONG, K. ZIEGLER & L. ANDRÉ Journal Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 18, 2003 

Lake Tanganyika characterised by a distinct bacterial community  De Wever A, Van der Gucht K, Muylaert K, Cousin S, Vyverman W Aquatic microbial ecology, (subm.) 

Le phytoplancton du Lac Tanganyika: une vision par l'analyse des pigments algaux  Descy, J.-P., B. Leporcq, M.-A. Hardy, S. Pirlot, S. Sténuite, I. Kimirei, B. Sekadende, S.R. Mwaitega & D. Sinyenza. Bull. Séanc. Acad. R. Sci. Outre-Mer, submitted, (subm.) 

Limnological profiles and their variability in Lake Tanganyika  Plisnier P.-D. Odada, E. & D.O. Olago (eds.), The East African Great Lakes: Limnology, Palaeoclimatology and Biodiversity, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 2002 

Mn seasonal upwellings recorded in Lake Tanganyika mussels.  Langlet, D., Alleman, L. Plisnier, P-D., Hughes, H. & André, L.  Biogeosciences, 2006 

Notes on Cymatopleura calcarata Hustedt (Bacillariophyceae), an endemic diatom from Lake Tanganyika  Cocquyt C. Lange-Bertalot-Festschrift Studies on Diatoms, pp. 177-186, 2001 

Oocystis lacustris Chod. (Chlorophyta, Trebouxiophyceae) and related species from Lake Tanganyika (Africa) with comments on their taxonomy and general morphology  Stoyneva M.P, C. Cocquyt, G. Gärtner & W. Vyverman.  Cryptogamie Algologie, submitted., 2001 

Origin of intraseasonal variability in Lake Tanganyika  Naithani, J. Deleersnijder, E. Plisnier, P. D. Geophys. Res. Lett., 29, 2002 

Phytoplancton et production primaire du lac Tanganyika  DESCY J.-P., C. COCQUYT, M.-A. HARDY, S. STÉNUITE, D. SINYENZA, I. KIMIREI, S. PIRLOT, W. VYVERMAN & P.-D. PLISNIER proceedings Conférence Internationale des Limnologues d’Expression Française, Montreal, Canada, 2003 

Phytoplankton in Lake Tanganyika: a comparison of community composition and biomass off Kigoma with previous studies 27 years ago.  Cocquyt C. & W. Vyverman.  Journal of Great Lakes Research, 2003 

Phytoplankton pigments and community composition in Lake Tanganyika  Descy, J.-P., M.-A. Hardy, S. Sténuite, S. Pirlot, B. Leporcq, I. Kimirei, B. Sekadende, S.R. Mwaitega & D. Sinyenza  Freshwater Biology, 50 , 2005 

Precise measurements of natural silicon isotopic compositions in environmental samples  CARDINAL D., L.Y. ALLEMAN & L. ANDRE Pugis, Turin, Italy, 2003 

Preliminary results of a reduced-gravity model of the wind-induced oscillations of the thermocline in Lake Tanganyika.  Naithani J., E. Deleersnijder, P.-D. Plisnier & S. Legrand Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Tropical Climatology, Meteorology and Hydrology. Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium and Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences of Belgium, Demarée, G., M. De Dapper & J. Alexandre (eds.) , 2004 

Probable impact of global warming and ENSO on Lake Tanganyika.  Plisnier P.-D. Probable impact of global warming and ENSO on Lake Tanganyika. Bull. Séanc. Acad. r.Sci. Outre-Mer, 50 Bull. Séanc. Acad. R.Sci. Outre-Mer, 50, 2004 

Pulsed and dampened annual limnological fluctuations in Lake Tanganyika.  Plisnier P.-D. & E.J. Coenen Munawar, M.H. & R.E. Hecky (eds.), The Great Lakes of the World (GLOW): food-web, health and integrity, Backhuys, Leiden, 2001 

Recent climate variability signals in limnology and fisheries at Lake Tanganyika  PLISNIER P.-D. EGS-AGU-EUG Joint Assembly, Nice, France, 2003 

Seasonal and spatial variability in the abundance of auto- and heterotrophic plankton in Lake Tanganyika.  De Wever A, Muylaert K, Cocquyt C, Van Wichelen J, Plisnier PD, Vyverman W Archiv Fur Hydrobiologie, (subm.) 

Seasonal succession of diatom communities in Lake Tanganyika and its potential to track past short-term climate change  Cocquyt C., E. Verleyen, A. De Wever, P.-D. Plisnier & W. Vyverman to be submitted., (subm.) 

Silicon isotopic compositions in freshwater and marine environments  CARDINAL D., L.Y. ALLEMAN & L. ANDRE Proceedings Chapman conference, Greece, 2003 

Silicon isotopic fractionation in Lake Tanganyika and its tributaries.   Alleman L.Y., D. Cardinal, C. Cocquyt, P.-D. Plisnier, J.-P. Descy, I. Kimirei, D. Sinyianza and André L.  J.Great Lakes Res., , 2005 

Species diversity of diatoms in the Norhern Basin of Lake Tanganyika.Proceedings Botanical Biodiversity and the Belgian Expertise 2001. S:  Cocquyt C. Scripta Botanica Belgica, 24, 2001 

Species diversity of diatoms in the Northern basin of Lake Tanganyika  Cocquyt C. Aquatic Biodiversity; Past, present and future. Antwerp, Belgium, 2003 

Staurophora caljonii spec. nov. (Bacillariophyceae Anomoeoneidaceae), a new halophilic diatom species from sub-recent lake deposits in Kenya  Cocquyt C. Hydrobiologia, 511 1 , 2003 

Study of the nutrient and plankton dynamics in Lake Tanganyika using a reduced-gravity model  Naithani J., F. Darchambeau, E. Deleersnijder, J.-P. Descy & E. Wolanski Ecological Modelling, to be submitted, 2005 

The residence time of settling particles in the surface mixed layer   Deleersnijder E., J.-M. Beckers & E.J.M. Delhez  Environmental Fluid Mechanics, submitted, 2005a 

Upwelling events in Lake Tanganyika traced by Mn content in bivalve shells. EGU General Assembly 2005, Vienna, Austria.  Langlet D., L. Alleman, L. André and P.-D. Plisnier  Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 7, 2005 

Vertical and horizontal heterogeneity in bacterial community composition in Lake Tanganyika  De Wever, A., K. Muylaert, S. Pirlot, K. Van der Gucht, C. Cocquyt, J.-P. Descy, P.-D. Plisnier & W. Vyverman.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology, in press, 2005 

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