Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems due to their functions and attributes. They are essential to the well being of Kenyans as they contribute significant economic and social benefits to the country. Despite their high productivity and provision of many benefits, wetland ecosystems in Kenya are still facing serious threats including;
While wetlands have the potential of contributing significantly to the socio-economic development of Kenya, they face diverse and severe threats. These threats include among others inappropriate human activities within the catchments and in the wetlands, lack of coordinated and holistic policy guidelines, and climate change. The threats have induced changes that have eroded the ecological and socio-economic values and services derived from wetlands. The underlying threat remains lack of recognition of the importance of these wetlands.
* Reclamation and Conversion of wetlands:
Drainage and reclamation of wetlands for agricultural development, human settlement and industrial development is one of the biggest threats to wetland conservation and management. In the past, wetlands have been regarded as “wastelands”, which harbour disease vectors. This has led to large-scale drainage and conversion for alternative uses without regard to ecological and socio-economic values.
* Over-exploitation of wetland goods and services:
Increasing human populations and change from subsistence to commercial exploitation of wetland resources continue to exert increasing pressures on limited wetland resources, resulting in a decline of services and quality as well as quantity of products derived from wetlands.
* Pollution, Eutrophication and Salinisation of wetlands:
The quality of many water sources in Kenya is declining as a result of municipal, agricultural and industrial wastes/ discharges. These have negatively impacted water quality and biodiversity within the wetland ecosystems thereby reducing their values. Increased nutrient loads have led to eutrophication and episodes of algal blooms in wetlands near major settlements. In certain areas excessive abstraction of fresh waters, diversions, and catchment degradation, have led to increased salinity.
* Alien Invasive Species:
Wetlands are highly vulnerable to alien and potentially invasive species. Many wetlands have in the past been affected by the introduction of alien invasive species that have altered the biodiversity characteristics and diminished the services provided by wetlands. For example, the introduction of Nile perch nearly eliminated the indigenous fish species of Lake Victoria while water hyacinth, Salvinia sp, and Typha sp. have affected numerous.