Andean hypersaline lakes in the Atacama Desert , northern Chile : Between lithium exploitation and unique biodiversity conservation

Gajardo, Gonzalo; Redón, Stella

Keywords: Atacama Desert, conservation, hypersaline lagoons, lithium exploitation, waterbirds


Hypersaline lakes or brines are unique ecosystems with unique value and biodiversity that provide economic (mining) and noneconomic services (waterbird habitat). As they are shrinking around the world due to brine diversion and climatic oscillations, this article alerts on the fragility of Andean high-altitude hypersaline lagoons in Salar de Atacama in the hyperarid Atacama Desert, northern Chile. As an integral part of the world's largest lithium exploitation from brine pumped from beneath the Salar, brine diversion and water shortage should compromise lagoons structure, functioning, and their high ecological value as habitat for endangered migratory birds like flamingos. Conserving the unique biodiversity and properties of these lagoons require long-term monitoring, including keystone taxa like the brine shrimp Artemia. How Chile will combine biodiversity agreements, treaties on wetlands and endangered birds conservation under the soaring lithium demand to support electromobility? Chile's government has granted new lithium extraction quotas to mining companies until 2030, which raises a concern and shows the difficulty to reconcile profit-driven economic development with nature conservation. As these lagoons may be shrinking and their food web altered, a problem only noticed so far by the declining flamingos, there is an urgent need to consider them in the environmental impact assessment legislation

Más información

Volumen: 1
Número: 9
Editorial: Wiley
Fecha de publicación: 2019
Página de inicio: 1
Página final: 8


Notas: New Journal, not indexed yet