A review of the impacts of invasive aquatic weeds on the bio- diversity of some tropical water bodies with special reference to Lake Victoria (Kenya)

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Aquatic weeds may be defined as troublesome or unsightly plants growing in abundance inaquatic situations where they are not wanted. These plants are either adapted to continuoussupplies of water or are at least tolerant to waterlogged soil conditions for substantial periodsof time. The wide range of adaptation to varying amounts of water, and the impossibility ofsharply distinguishing between aquatic and terrestrial environments, makes it difficult toprecisely define an aquatic plant. The menace of water weeds is reaching alarming proportions in many parts of the world, especially in tropical water bodies where they have led toserious ecological and economic losses. Lake Victoria, Kenya, which is the largest freshwaterbody in the tropics, has undergone serious ecological changes including over-exploitationof its fishery resources, degradation of the catchment area, introduction of exotic fish speciesand invasion by the water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms (Pontederiaceae),among others. The presence of the weed in the lake has led to many problems includingblockage of water pumps, reduced fishing activities and increase in water borne diseasessuch as schistosomiasis. Positively, aquatic weeds constitute a free crop of great potentialvalue; they are a highly productive crop that requires no tillage, fertilizer, seed, or cultivation.Moreover, these plants have the potential for exploitation as animal feed, human food, sourceof food to some aquatic organisms, soil additives, fuel production, wastewater treatment,source of raw materials and habitat to many organisms. This paper reviews the effects ofaquatic weeds in aquatic systems with examples from some selected waterbodies and specialreference to Lake Victoria.