The future of salt lakes: the case of Mexico JAVIER ALCOCER1 1 Limnology Laboratory, Environmental Conservation & Improvement Project, UIICSE. FES Iztacala, UNAM. Av. de los Barrios No. 1, Los Reyes Iztacala. 54090 Tlalnepantla. Edo. de Mexico. MEXICO. email@example.com Background Williams (2002) reviews the extensive damage that The lakes of Valle de Santiago salt lakes have undergone worldwide. Mexico, with two- There are nearly 30 craters in the Valle de Santiago thirds of its territory arid or semiarid, shows the area, however, just a few contain water. These include problems typical of a developing country (e.g. Rincón de Parangueo, San Nicolás de Parangueo, La exacerbated water pollution and misuse, unplanned Alberca and Cíntora. Vegetation clearance, overgrazing, population growth, deficient agricultural techniques) abatement of phreatic waters through groundwater over- resulting in an accelerated degradation of all lakes. Salt exploitation for a continuously increasing agriculture and lakes have been familiar to Mexicans since prehispanic salinization have induced severe erosion and overall times (e.g. Aztecs and Purepechas, respectively on Lakes desertification in the basin for what, it seems, a long time Texcoco and Cuitzeo). However, from Colonial times, (i.e. prehispanic times). Two of the four crater lakes have population development and agriculture have been already dried and phreatic mantle abatement reaches up particularly significant in the decline of Mexican lakes to 2.5 m per year. The other two are close to be waterless and, thoughinformation is scarce, the salt lakes are (i.e. few centimeters left). Through unplanned urban, vanishing. industrial and agricultural development in the area, aquatic resources are being exploited beyond Aims sustainability. This paper provides a review of both historical and recent human activities which have led to change in The lakes of the Oriental basin some Mexican saline lakes, and thus aims to provide a The Oriental endorheic basin is located in the south- limnological perspective on their past, present and future eastern most portion of the Mexican Plateau. There are situation that complement Williams’ (2002) paper. no permanent but only ephemeral streams in the basin; nonetheless, this poorly developed surface hydric Lake Texcoco network is scant when compared with profuse Lake Texcoco covered a large portion of the Mexico groundwater resources. Groundwater is the principal basin and sustained a huge population in the ancient water source of the lakes (two playa and six crater lakes). world. Natives perfectly coexisted with the lake; they However, the water level has been declining mostly obtained food, transportation and raw materials among because of the over-exploitation of the groundwater for other benefits. However, since the arrival of Spanish in irrigation purposes and the destruction of the natural 1519, Lake Texcoco became less a benefit and more a recharging areas. In addition, the government has problem thus starting the desiccation process. Of considered the Oriental basin as a potential water supply particular note have been drainage basin activities, for Mexico City and/or the City of Puebla due to its diversion of inflows, pollution and over-exploitation of relatively high altitude (i.e. > 2,300 m asl) that may groundwater and biological resources. These changes are reduce pumping expenses in transporting water from particularly important since they significantly affect Oriental to Mexico and Puebla. The playa lakes became water supply, drainage and other urban issues in Mexico firstly temporal and then episodic. Water level in the City, Mexico’s largest city and capital located within the crater lakes is declining rapidly, threatening the survival general boundaries of the lake basin and gradually of valuable endemic species (e.g. the isopod Caecidotea sinking (mean annual sinking is 30 cm). williamsi, the atherinid fish Poblana alchichica and the ambystomatid salamander Ambystoma taylori). These Lake Cuitzeo and other Mexican case studies are further discussed to Cuitzeo is the second largest lake in Mexico (ca. foresee the likely condition of inland saline ecosystems 425 km2), and ranks first in size among the saline ones. in 2025. Paleolimnological information reveals Cuitzeo as a shallow, astatic (i.e., fluctuating) lake, that changes Reference dramatically in surface area and volume throughout time. Williams, W.D. (2002). Environmental threats to salt In spite of the large fisheries of non-traditional products lakes and the likely status of inland saline ecosystems in (e.g., clam shrimps, hemipterans, ephydrids) in the 2025. Environmental Conservation 29, 154-167. western and more saline portion of the lake, diverse actions (e.g. highway construction, artificial outflows, and surface inflow diversions) have desiccated it (almost one third of the total lake area) for agriculture. Important social, economical and political problems arise in the dispute for water and land use in this magnificent lake.
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