Lake Turkana: World’s Largest Permanent Desert Lake (Kenya)


Located in the “cradle of mankind” of the East African Rift Valley, Lake Turkana is distinguished as both the world’s largest permanent desert lake and alkaline water body. With a surface area of about 7,560 km2, Lake Turkana is a highly pulsed, variable system as a result of its closed-basin nature, arid surroundings, and its strong dependence on River Omo for the majority of its inflow, which originates as rainfall over the Ethiopian highlands. In this article we describe the lake’s unique ecosystem and associated vicissitudes, diverse habitats and incredible biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Although parts of the lake and lower Omo Delta have been zoned as an international biosphere reserve, Lake Turkana and the region are facing immense threat from anthropogenic activities. A combination of external factors (hydropower dams, irrigation schemes, climate anomalies) and internal drivers (demography, economic growth) will strongly impact the Lake Turkana basin over the next decade. In turn, this will have significant negative consequences on resource productivity and the wellbeing of local communities.




Ojwang, W.O. et al. (2016). Lake Turkana: World’s Largest Permanent Desert Lake (Kenya). In: Finlayson, C., Milton, G., Prentice, R., Davidson, N. (eds) The Wetland Book. Springer, Dordrecht