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Water Hyacinth is Used for Health Improvements in Africa

> He will be giving a presentation on this work at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Chicago (July 8, 2007, 10:50 AM) in a major symposium on Plant Biology in Sub-Saharan Africa organized by Debby Delmer of UC Davis.

Water hyacinth was first observed around Lake Victoria in 1989 and by the late 1990s was choking out most of the shoreline. Lake Victoria, located in east central Africa and bordered by Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, is the second largest freshwater lake in the world in surface area.

It is located in the same region as Africas Great Rift Valley System, an area of tectonic rifting and ancient volcanic activity, which is considered to be the cradle of human evolution.

The lake itself is a natural laboratory of evolutionary biology because of its diverse cichlid fish populations, and it has provided livelihoods for humans for many thousands of years.

With no natural enemies in Africa, the water hyacinth proliferated around Lake Victoria and resulted in reduced fish catches and biodiversity.

It interfered with water transport and blocked hydroelectric power turbines, resulting in a severe drop in the supply of electricity. Human health was also threatened because the large weed mats created breeding habitat for the vectors of malaria and schistosomiasis. Rotting vegetation contaminated drinking water, increasing cases of gastrointestinal diseases.

Dr. Ogwang and his colleagues used the natural predators of the plant to help eradicate it--the mottled water hyacinth weevil, N. eichhorniae, and the chevroned water hyacinth weevil, N. bruchi. Both adults and larvae feed on the plants.

The Neochetina larvae tunnel into the plant, allowing invasion by opportunistic bacteria and fungi. Additionally, water enters the tunnels and causes the plant mats to sink as the plants deteriorate further. Wind and wave action can accele
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