Speke glacier with Lake Ruhandika occupying the cirque below. The lake formed in recent decades due to glacier retreat. Photo: Hilde Eggermont.


Project Objectives

Recent observations of glacial termini in the Rwenzori Mountains (the so-called Mountains of the Moon; Uganda-DR Congo) confirm rapid glacial recession over the past 100 years. The rates of this recession suggest that the permanent ice will disappear entirely within the next two decades. In order to understand the climatic controls of glacier recession, the relative impacts of human-induced global warming versus natural climate variability, and the long-term tropical mountain ecosystem and glacier stability in the Rwenzori, there is an urgent need for sound knowledge of past climate and ecosystem variability and glacier dynamics in this high mountain environment. Sediments accumulating on the bottom of alpine glacial lakes chronicle the history of central African climate and environmental dynamics, and can thus provide the historical perspective needed for resource conservation.

The main goal of our research program (2005-present) is to investigate century-scale variability in rainfall and temperature and its impact on alpine glaciation and ecosystems in central equatorial Africa during the mid- to late Holocene through multi-proxy analysis of sediment records from Rwenzori lakes. To this end, we maintain an active field and laboratory research programme to:

Finally, we also aim to document the poorly known biodiversity of aquatic algae, insects and micro-crustacea in the unique setting of tropical high-elevation lakes. Apart from throwing light on the auto-ecology and biogeography of the different groups of Afroalpine aquatic biota, the data will also provide a baseline against which to compare future ecological changes.

Project Personnel
- James M. Russell, Brown University
- Hilde R. Eggermont, Ghent University
- Dirk Verschuren, Ghent University
- Immaculate Ssemmanda, Makerere University (Uganda)
- Leen Audenaert, Ghent University
- Shannon Loomis, Brown University

- Mathias Vuille, SUNY Albany
- Richard Taylor, University College of London (see related website)
- Anson Mackay, University College of London
- Yongsong Huang, Brown University
- Robert Nakileza, Mountain Resources Institute, Makerere University
- Uganda Wildlife Authority
- Rwenzori Mountaineering Services

Project Data

Project datasets are password protected but are available to authorized personnel. We are happy to provide data as long as your use does not overlap significantly with our ongoing research. Please email to describe your intended use of the data. Available datasets include:
- Air temperature measurements from 16 Hobo Tidbit temperature loggers, 2-hour resolution, 2005-2008
- Limnological data (bathymetric maps, temperature, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, pigment concentrations, POC/PON concentrations, etc.) from virtually all lakes and pools on the Ugandan side of the Rwenzori. Updated datasets are available in addition to data in Eggermont et al. (2007)
- Stable isotopic (d18O, dD) data from numerous Rwenzori lakes and rivers sampled in 2005-2008

Isotopic compositions of some lakes in rivers in the Rwenzori (left); air temperature and relative humidity at Bigo, 3500 m asl.



The National Geographic Society
Fund for Scientific Research of Flanders
Richard B. Salomon Fund, Brown University
King Leopold III fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation
Stichting ter bevordering van het wetenschappelijk onderzoek in Afrika


Rwenzori Research at the University College of London