The Lake Natron is a salt and soda lake in the Arusha Region of Northern Tanzania, close to Kenyan Border in Gregory Rift. The Lake is mainly fed by Ewaso Ng’iro River, rises in central Kenya and by mineral-rich hot springs. The water level varies depend on its water. The Lake Natron is quite shallow just 9.8 feet deep, 57 KM long and 22 KM wide. The Lake temperature is falling above 40 °C (104 °F). Due to its exclusive biodiversity Tanzania has named The Lake Natron Basin to the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International significance. The Lake Natron is also the World Wildlife Fund East African halophytics ecoregion. The Lake has high levels of evaporation left behind natron, and trona (sodium, carbonate, decahydrate, sesquicarbonate dehydrate).
The Lake alkalinity reach a pH of more than 12, make surrounding bedrock is composed of alkaline, sodium-dominated trachyte lavas that were laid down during the Pleistocene period. Due to high evaporation rates, the color of lake is characteristic during the dry season, salinity levels rises at a certain point where the salt loving microorganisms starts to flourish. Therefore, halophile organisms include few cyanobacteria that make their own food with photosynthesis as plants do. Moreover,, the red accessory photosynthesizing pigment in the cyanobacteria yields the deep reds of the open water of the lake and the orange colors of the shallow parts of the lake. The alkali salt crust on the surface of the lake is also every so often colored red or pink by the salt-loving microorganisms that live there. There’re variety of plants surroundings the lake gets benefits of salt marshes and freshwater wetlands. The Lake Natron is home to some endemic algae, invertebrates, birds and fish.
Sometimes, Lake Natron temperature crosses 60 °C make the life difficult for animals and birds. The birds take advantage of the lake’s extreme conditions, which keep their predators at bay, and more than 2.5 million lesser flamingos flock there during breeding season. Three-quarters of the world population of lesser flamingos (Hoenicopterus minor) live in East Africa and use Lake Natron as their nesting site. Every year countless lesser flamingos have flocked to Tanzania's Lake Natron to start nesting, but mainly depend on the combination of environmental factors. The gathering is one of nature’s fantastic spectacles. It’s a regular breeding area of 2.5 million flamingoes, whose status is close to “near-threatened” on the ICUN Red List. These flamingoes, gather along nearby saline lakes to feed on a blue green algae with red pigments, called “spirulina”.
The high salinity & cyanobacteria support more nests; as greater flamingoes breed on mud flats, also it is a safe breeding place due to its caustic environment is a barrier against predators trying to reach their nests on seasonally forming evaporates islands. When the water level is just right, salt islands are exposed in the center of the lake, given that the impeccable nesting site. However, if the Lake is too dry, predators are able to reach the young birds and eaten them, and if there is too much rain, the nests can be flooded, so the conditions must be perfect for a successful breeding season. Moreover, there are two endemic fish species; the alkaline tilapias Alcolapia latilabris and A. ndalalani flourish in lake water at the edges of hot spring inlets. The surrounding area is not inhabited but some herding and seasonal cultivation take place. Further, there are a number of campgrounds near the lake, which is also the base for climbing Ol Doinyo Lengai. The Lake Natron also provides support for 100,000 other water birds, many of which are Palearctic migrants.
Moreover, The most interesting, strange thing about this lake are the solitary, mummified birds which can be sporadically found along its shoreline, calcified over a long period of time and turned into fossils. The surrounding area of Lake Natron contain some of the most astonishing scenery in Africa also a home to some wildlife, the occasional giraffe or zebra warthogs and many more. The other attraction in the area are: the Mountain “Ol Doinyo Lengai”, the combination of broad open plains, sheer rift escarpments, enormous freestanding volcanoes and the vast multi-coloured soda lake itself is a home to a fascinating eco-system which thrives in this severe environment is absolutely magnificent.
The construction of dike at north end of lake and planned hydroelectric power plant on the Ewaso Ng’iro in Kenya increases the threats of dilution to this breading area may still be serious. Hence, there is no formal protection. Another big threat is a proposed plan of soda ash plant on its shores to pump the lake water to extract the sodium carbonate to convert to washing powder, along with more than 100 workers housing, and coal fired power station to provide energy for plant complex. In addition, there is a possibility the developers may introduce a hybrid brine shrimp to increase the efficiency of extraction. Due to these threats, the lesser flamingoes continuing to breed in the face of such mayhem is next to zero, and will leave lesser flamingoes in extinction.