Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms) is an invasive aquatic macrophyte associated with major negative economic and ecological impacts to the Lake Victoria region since the plant's establishment in Uganda in the 1980s. Reliable estimates of water hyacinth distribution and extent are required to gauge the severity of the problem through time, relate water hyacinth abundance to environmental factors, identify areas requiring management action, and assess the efficacy of management actions. To provide such estimates and demonstrate the utility of remote sensing for this application, we processed and analyzed remotely sensed imagery to determine the distribution and extent of water hyacinth. Maps were produced and coverage was quantified using a hybrid unsupervised image classification approach with manual editing for each of the riparian countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as for numerous gulfs and bays. A similar procedure was carried out for selected lakes in the Rwanda-Tanzania borderlands lakes region in the Kagera River basin. Results confirm the severity of the water hyacinth infestation, especially in the northern parts of the lake. A maximum lake-wide extent of at least 17,374 ha was attained in 1998. Following this, a combination of factors, including conditions associated with the 1997 to 1998 El Nin??o and biocontrol with water hyacinth weevils, appear to have contributed to a major decline in water hyacinth in the most affected parts of the lake. Some lakes in the Kagera basin, such as Lake Mihindi, Rwanda, were severely infested in the late 1990s, but the level of infestation in most of these decreased markedly by the early 2000s.
Additional publication details
The rise and fall of water hyacinth in Lake Victoria and the Kagera River basin, 1989-2001