Monday, June 9, 2008

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Lake Chapala

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Mexico's Lake Chapala, lying in the heart of an extremely arid region, is the country's largest natural lake. The lake is one of the most important wetlands in the region and home to more than 70 endemic species. Since the 1950s, Lake Chapala has undergone many changes as a result of water abstraction for agricultural use both inside and outside the region and for a rapidly growing population. The level of the lake has declined, and there have been noticeable decreases in surrounding wetland areas as well as changes in the hydrological system connecting various springs.

Some of these changes are visible in this pair of satellite images, including alterations in the contours of the shoreline, obvious extensions of land near various townships around the lake, and the appearance of remarkably large areas of reclaimed land at the lake's eastern end. Like all arid areas, the land around Lake Chapala is prone to salinization. If the lake continues to shrink, researchers predict both a decrease in water availability and an increase in the salt content of the region's soil.
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