Lake Poopó (Spanish: Lago Poopó Spanish: [ˈlaɣo po.oˈpo]) is
a large saline lake located in a shallow depression in the Altiplano
Mountains in Oruro Department, Bolivia, at an altitude of
approximately 3,700 m (12,100 ft). Because the lake was long
and wide (90 by 32 km, 56 by 20 mi), it made up the eastern
half of the department, known as a mining region in southwest Bolivia.
The permanent part of the lake body covered approximately 1,000 square
kilometres (390 sq mi) and it was the second-largest lake in
the country. The lake received most of its water from the
Desaguadero River, which flows from
Lake Titicaca at the north end of
the Altiplano. Since the lake lacked any major outlet and had a mean
depth of less than 3 m (10 ft), the surface area differed
greatly on a seasonal basis.
In 2002 the lake was designated as a site for conservation under the
Ramsar Convention. By December 2015, the lake had completely
dried up, leaving only a few marshy areas. Although the lake has
dried up completely a couple of times in the past, it does not appear
that it will recover this time. Suggested causes of the decline are
the melting of the Andes glaciers and loss of their waters, because of
a drought due to climate change, as well as continued diversion of
water for mining and agriculture. Nonetheless,as of March 2018 25
to 50% of the lake has recovered due to heavy rains.
1 Archaeological evidence
2 Lake dynamics
Salinity and geology
Mining and heavy metals
3 Flora and fauna
4 Effects of the loss of the lake
5 See also
7 External links
Archaeological investigations conducted by the San Andrés University
of La Paz, Bolivia, shows the influence of the
Wankarani culture in
the Poopó area. Complex central urban areas, such as villages and
towns, were developed that expanded into the Poopó basin during the
Late Formative period, (200 BCE – 200 CE), probably in
conjunction with changing patterns of agriculture. Herders and the
life style of llama caravan merchants coexisted with more sedentary
farmers in a harmonious system of exchange of goods and services.
Other investigators examining the following period, the Early Regional
Developments (c. 300 – 900 CE), have concluded that the size of
the inhabited areas increased. The South Poopó inhabitants developed
a unique style of ceramics style with triangular spirals. The east
portion of the lake has evidence of an important
with ceramic styles from the core Titicaca area and surrounding
styles, demonstrating the interactions between different peoples in
The main inlet of
Lake Poopó (roughly 92% of the water) comes from
the Desaguadero River, which enters the lake at the north end. It
flows south from Lake Titicaca. There are numerous smaller inlets
along the eastern shore of the lake, many of which are dry most of the
year. At times of very high water levels, Poopó was connected to the
Salar de Coipasa in the west. A minor outlet leads to
Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni in the far south of the Altiplano, but as the lake
lacks any major outlet, it is classified as an endorheic basin.
Historic Levels of Lake Poopó
When the water level of
Lake Titicaca drops below 3,810 m
(12,500 ft), the flow of Desaguadero River is so low it can no
longer compensate for the massive water losses due to evaporation from
the surface of Lake Poopó. At this point, the lake volume begins to
decrease. At its maximum in 1986, the lake had an area of
3,500 km2 (1,400 sq mi). During the years that
followed, the surface area steadily decreased until 1994, when the
lake disappeared completely. The time period between 1975 and 1992 is
the longest period in recent times when the lake had a continuous
water body. Renewed rainfalls in the mid 90s revitalized the lake
Action has been taken in order to make the area ecologically
sustainable again, with the help of funding from the European Union.
But the efforts have not been unable to offset other changes: since
1995 regional temperatures have risen and consequently tripled the
evaporation rates. In addition, water was drawn off for mining and
irrigation, compounding the problems. On 20 January 2016 the area
was declared a disaster zone by the Bolivian government.
Salinity and geology
Lake Poopó is low scale and is carried out using rowing
boats and small nets. The image shows boats owned by fishermen from
The water of
Lake Poopó is highly saline. The salinity is a result of
the endorheic nature of the hydrological system on the Altiplano,
which allows all weathered ions to remain in the system. The salinity
Lake Poopó is further increased by the arid climate and the high
evaporation from the lake surface.
In the northern end of Lake Poopó, dilution of the salinity occurs
due to freshwater flow from the Desaguadero River. The salt gradient
of the water increases towards the south.
The salinity varies with water volume. During October and November
2006, the salinity in the north end of the lake varied between
brackish and saline (15–30,000 mg/l). In the south end of the
lake the water was classified as a brine
(105,000–125,000 mg/l). The water type is a 4–2
Geological sources of sodium chloride (NaCl), such as halite and
feldspars, are present in the drainage area. These could also
contribute to the salinity of Lake Poopó. The lake body is situated
on top of
Cenozoic deposits, consisting mainly of unconsolidated
material. These sediments are the remains of extensive prehistoric
lakes, which covered the
Altiplano during at least five glaciation
Mining and heavy metals
There is a long tradition of mining in the Poopó Basin. Extraction of
metals was ordered in the 13th century to support the
Inca army. After
Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the mining operations
increased in scale. At this point the region became known as one of
the mining centres of Bolivia.
Salt crystals in footprints on the shore of Lake Poopó
The mining districts are situated at the foothills of the Cordillera
Oriental along the eastern border of the Poopó basin. The most
important minerals to the economy are silver and tin.
Studies have shown elevated concentrations of heavy metals in surface
and ground waters of the Poopó basin. These metals are naturally
present in the bedrock, from which they are released through
weathering processes. The mining activities in the area further
contributes to the heavy metal pollution. Acid leaching from mines and
mechanical processing of ore speed up the process.
The major part of the heavy metals transported to
Lake Poopó seem to
be immobilized in the bottom sediments. But concentrations of arsenic,
lead, and cadmium in the lake water exceed Bolivian and World Health
Organization guideline values for drinking water.
Flora and fauna
Three to four native fish species inhabited the lake: the mauri (a
Trichomycterus catfish), and the carache and ispi (Orestias spp.). Two
exotic fish species were introduced in the 20th century; the rainbow
trout (trucha) in 1942 and the silversides Odontesthes bonariensis
(pejerrey) in 1955. These bigger fish are now the most commercially
important species. The lake had relatively large fish population,
although it declined during the years of low water when the salinity
The aquatic bird life was highly diverse, with a total of 34 species.
Most famous are the three species of flamingo (Andean, James's and
Chilean), which mainly lived in the shallow lagoons in the northern
and eastern parts of the lake. An inventory of the bird population,
made in 2000 in cooperation with BirdLife International, identified 6
threatened species and others that are near-threatened. Among these
Andean flamingo and the Andean condor.
A total of 17 superior plants and 3 species of alga were identified in
and around Lake Poopó. Due to the constant drought and flooding, the
littoral zone experiences great disturbances. As a result, there was
hardly any vegetation to be found on the shores of the lake.
Effects of the loss of the lake
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (January 2017)
The sparse communities nearby have suffered financially due to the
local economy being dependent on lake fishing. Moreover, many bird
species native to
Bolivia and the internationally have been impacted
on due to loss of food, and an annual migration area.
^ a b Paskevics, Emily (19 December 2015). "Lake Poopó, Second
Largest In Bolivia, Dries Up Completely". Headlines & Global News
(HNGN). Archived from the original on 9 February 2016.
^ "Lake Poopó". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
^ 11 July 2002 "Ramsar, with Bolivia's help, surpasses 200 million
hectares of global coverage".
Ramsar Convention Sectretariat. 2
February 2013. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015.
Bolivia completes Ramsar SGF project on Lake Poopó". Ramsar
Convention Sectretariat. 25 February 2003. Archived from the original
on 9 February 2016.
Climate Change Claims; a Lake, and an Identity". NYTimes. 7 July
2016. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
^ Mercado, David. "
Lake Poopó Dries Up". Reuters. Archived from the
original on 19 December 2015.
^ a b Valdez, Carlos; Bajak, Frank (21 January 2016). "Disappearance
of Bolivia's No. 2 lake a harbinger". The News-Herald. Archived from
the original on 9 February 2016.
^ "Central places formation at the southern Poopó lake basin".
Uppsala Universitet. Archived from the original on 2007-06-09.
^ "Lake Poopó". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 3 March
^ Mururi, Manish (21 January 2016). "National disaster declared upon
drying up of Lake Poopó". Biotech in Asia. Archived from the original
on 22 January 2016.
^ "Aquaculture Development in Sistan-Baluchestan 2005 - 2008" (PDF).
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-29. Retrieved
Drever, James I: The Geochemistry of Natural Waters, 3rd edition,
Prentice Hall, 1997.
Montes de Oca; Geografia y Recursos Naturales de Bolivia, 3rd Edition,
EDOBOL, La Paz, 1997.
Rocha, O.O. (editor): “Diagóstico de los recursos naturales y
culturales de los lagos Poopó y Uru Uru, Oruro – Bolivia”.
Convención RAMSAR, WCS/Bolivia, La Paz, 2002.
Troëng, B., Riera-Kilibarda C. Mapas temáticos de recursos minerales
de Bolivia, Boletin del Servicio geológico de
Bolivia N 7, La Paz,
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lake Poopó.
Master thesis about heavy metals in the rivers of the Poopó
basin[permanent dead link]
Master thesis about heavy metals in Lake Poopó
Satellite images and information from NASA about Lake Poopó
Lake Titicaca, Lake Poopó, and Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Article: Bolivia's second-largest lake dries up and may be gone
forever, lost to climate change
Lakes on the Altiplano
Present-day lakes and salt pans
Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Coipasa
Lake expansions of Lake Titicaca
Other paleolakes and lake expansions in the region