Lake Natron is a remarkable salt lake in the northern region of Tanzania, in Africa, and also forms a part of the East African Rift.
The lake is fed by a combination of hot springs rich in minerals, and by a tributary of the Ewaso Ngiro River. It is, however, an extremely shallow lake – the water level rarely exceeds a depth of 9.8 ft (3 m).
The width and area of the lake vary greatly due to the effects of evaporation on such a shallow body of water. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind a unique deposit which is a mixture of minerals and salt. This particular mixture is known as natron.
Lake Natron Unique Flora
Lake Natron receives its distinctive coloring due to a combination of factors. During the dry season, a significant percentage of the water evaporates. At this time, the level of salinity also rises to levels that only certain microorganisms thrive in.
These halophile organisms generate their own sustenance through photosynthesis. The photosynthesizing pigment, in this case, is red, not green.
Levels of microorganisms are also higher in deeper water, creating the deep red color. In shallower water, the lower levels create an orange coloring.
Lake Natron Wildlife
Originating in hot springs, the water temperature of Lake Natron, along with extreme salinity, does not support any life directly. However, the outer margins form a unique habitat for some creatures.
Several species of flamingo make the outermost edges of the lake their home. There, they feed upon species including algae, small invertebrates, and even a few types of small fish. In fact, the outer portions of the lake serve as the only routine breeding area for the Lesser Flamingo.
At times, as many as 2.5 million of these flamingos may rest in a thin band encircling the edges of the lake. What an incredible sight they must be.
Lake Natron Threats and Preservation Efforts
Lake Natron forms a geologically unique and important habitat. The species adapted to its unique environment can not survive elsewhere.
Unfortunately, projected logging activities threaten to disrupt the delicate salinity balance. A hydroelectric plant on the Ewaso River is under consideration. Both of these projects would severely affect the delicate environmental balance of Lake Natron.
Additionally, a soda ash plant may appear on the shore of the lake. This plant would extract the sodium carbonate from the waters of the lake which is one of the minerals which forms the base of the unique waters present in the lake. The possibility of the Lesser Flamingo species adapting to the change in the lake is virtually non-existent.
If there is any hope that those projects would not happen, we at Our Breathing Planet are indeed hopeful.