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Many of World’s Lakes are Vanishing and Some May be Gone Forever

Bolivia’s second largest lake has vanished into thin air. In December, Lake Poopó became a dry salt pan and its largest lake – Lake Titicaca – is heading towards trouble, too.

Recent research and new data suggest that lakes in other parts of the world may also be on their way out.

The combination of silting up and irrigation withdrawal from the Desaguadero River, which feeds Poopó, together with climate change and the extra warmth from current El Niño, were enough to finish this lake off.

“Considering the size of the lake – 2700 square kilometres – this is quite an astounding event, with slim prospects of recovery,” says Dirk Hoffmann from the Bolivia Mountain Institute. “This event should serve as a real warning. Eventually, we can expect Lake Titicaca to go the same way.”

Air temperature has risen by around 0.7 °C in the Andes over the past 70 years and lakes are being evaporated faster than they are replenished. Lake Titicaca is close to a tipping point. Just 1 to 2 °C of atmospheric warming – which is expected by 2050 – could be enough to evaporate the top few metres, which would shut down the Desaguadero River and dry up all the water bodies that this river feeds. Such an outcome would be catastrophic for the 3 million inhabitants of Bolivia’s highlands, including the city of La Paz.


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