The Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in southwest Bolivia, its most visited protected area, contains an extensive range of landscapes, including volcanic mountain peaks, hot springs, geysers, lakes, fumaroles, and windswept deserts.
Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve
The Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, situated in the far southwestern region of Bolivia, is the country's most visited protected area. The Reserve contains an extensive range of landscapes, including volcanic mountain peaks, hot springs, geysers, lakes, fumaroles, and windswept deserts.
Located in Sur Lípez Province, the Reserve is considered the most important protected area, in terms of tourist influx, in the Potosí Department. Two communities, founded in the 1920's – Quetena Chico and Quetena Grande – lie within the Reserve.
Located at an altitude between 4,200 m (13,800 ft) and 5,400 m (17,700 ft) in the southern region of the Andes Mountains in southwestern Bolivia, the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve extends over an area of 714,745 ha (1,766,170 acres). It includes the Laguna Colorada National Wildlife Sanctuary. The Reserve is part of the larger Los Lípez Ramsar site.
The Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve protects part of the Central Andean dry puna (oligothermic) ecoregion. The Reserve's major attractions are erupting volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, lakes, fumaroles, mountains and its three endemic species of flamingos.
The Reserve's climate in winter (May to August) is dry, generally with no rain during the summer (December to April). The average temperature is 3 °C (37 °F). The lowest temperatures are recorded during May, June, and July.
Laguna Verde: a salt lake that covers an area of 1,700 ha (4,200 acres), and a narrow causeway divides it into two parts. It is at the southwestern extremity of the Reserve and of Bolivia itself. It has mineral suspensions of arsenic and other minerals that color the lake waters. Its color varies from turquoise to dark emerald depending on the disturbance caused to sediments in the lake by winds.
Laguna Colorada: a salt lake of 4,278 m (14,035 ft), covering 6,000 ha (14,800 acres). It is named after the effect of wind and sun on the micro-organism that lives in it. The lake contains borax islands, whose white color contrasts with the reddish color of its waters, which is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae. The lake is shallow, less than 1 m (40 in) deep, and supports 40 bird species, providing pink algae to the rare James's flamingos, which can walk across it.
Laguna Salada: covers 900 ha (2,200 acres) and is light green due to its high mineral content. It has a coastal perimeter of 20 km (12.5 mi). To the south of the lake is a hot spring.
Laguna Busch (or Kalina): lies at an elevation of 4,525 m (14,845 ft), and its surface area is 2,060 ha (5,090 acres)
Laguna Hedionda: a salt lake notable for various migratory pink and white flamingos species. It lies at an altitude of 4,121 m (13,520 ft) with an area of 300 ha (740 acres). Salt flats and bofedales (wetlands) are spread over the lake's periphery.
Salar de Chalviri
Salar de Chalviri, also known as Salar de Ohalviri, is a salt flat in the heart of the Reserve at an elevation of approximately 4,400 m (14,400 ft).
Desierto de Dali
To the southwest of Salar de Chalviri lies the Desierto de Dalí (Salvador Dalí Desert), an extremely barren valley entirely contained within the borders of the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve and is characterized by landscapes that resemble surrealist paintings by Salvador Dalí.
The Eduardo Avaroa Reserve contains the following mountain peaks, in alphabetical order, along with their corresponding height:
- Amarillo – 5,560 m (18,241 ft)
- Aguas Calientes – 5,684 m (18,648 ft)
- Aguita Brava – 5,485 m (17,995 ft)
- Bajo – 5,468 m (17,939 ft), border with Argentina
- Baratera – 5,484 m (17,992 ft)
- Brajma – 5,356 m (17,572 ft)
- Bravo – 5,656 m (18,556 ft)
- Cahuna – 5,583 m (18,317 ft)
- Callejón Chico – 5,708 m (18,727 ft)
- Chaco Seguro – 4,948 m (16,233 ft)
- Chicalin – 5,123 m (16,808 ft)
- Chijlla – 5,709 m (18,730 ft)
- Cojita – 5,116 m (16,785 ft)
- Colorado – 5,264 m (17,270 ft)
- Cueva Blanca – 4,957 m (16,263 ft)
- Estrato – 5,193 m (17,037 ft)
- Guacha – 5,340 m (17,519 ft)
- Guayaques – 5,598 m (18,366 ft)
- Juriques – 5,704 m (18,714 ft), on the border with Chile
- Lagunitas – 5,203 m (17,070 ft)
- Letrato – 5,193 m (17,037 ft)
- Licancabur – 5,920 m (19,422 ft), on the border with Chile
- Linzor – 5,680 m (18,635 ft)
- Loromayu – 5,641 m (18,507 ft)
- Loromita – 4,846 m (15,899 ft)
- Michina – 5,537 m (18,494 ft)
- Nelly – 5,078 m (16,660 ft)
- Pabellón – 5,498 m (18,038 ft)
- Panizo – 5,456 m (17,900 ft)
- Piedras Grandes – 5,710 m (18,733 ft)
- Poderosa – 5,614 m (18,418 ft)
- Puntas Negras – 4,963 m (16,282 ft)
- Puripica Chico – 5,464 m (17,926 ft)
- Putana – 5,890 m (19,324 ft)
- Quebrada Honda – 5,593 m (18,350 ft)
- Sairecabur – 5,971 m (19,890 ft), on the border with Chile
- Sanabria – 5,654 m (18,550 ft)
- Sandoncito – 5,252 m (17,231 ft)
- Silata Chahuna – 5640 m (18,504 ft)
- Suri Phuyu – 5,458 m (17,907 ft)
- Tinte – 5,384 m (17,664 ft), on the border with Argentina
- Totoral – 4,963 m (16,283 ft)
- Tres Cumbres – 5,509 m (18,074 ft)
- Viscachillos – 5,301 m (17,391 ft)
- Waylla Yarita – 5,578 m (18,300 ft)
- Wilama – 5,678 m (18,628 ft), on the border with Argentina
- Zapaleri – 5,090 m (16,699 ft), on the border with Argentina and Chile
Flora and Fauna
The Eduardo Avaroa Reserve, located within the Central Andean Dry Puna ecoregion, has vegetation consisting of tropical alpine herbs with dwarf shrubs of the forests of Polylepis. Plant and tree species are reportedly about 190 species in the harsh terrain, which have emerged given the conditions of salinity, lack of fresh water, low temperatures, and scarcity of nutrients.
Flora restricted to this and other ecoregions include the genera Barneoudia, Hexaptera, Nototriche, Pycnophyllum and Werneria. The vegetation is characterized by pasture grass (straw), such as Peruvian feather grass (Stipa ichu) in some plains and hillsides.
The important plant species on which people depend for fuel wood in the area is yareta, which grows in the forest of the Reserve at 1 - 3 mm (0.039 - 0.118 in) per year amidst rocky terrain. This hardwood tree, which looks like a foamy bubble bath but is as hard as a stone, grows slowly, attaining a height of about 5 ft (1.5 m) with a circumference of 10 ft (3.0 m) and can be as old as 3000 years.
Tola or Thola (Parastrephia lepidophylla), Quinoa, and the Kenua bush tree can sometimes be found in places with higher humidity.
The Reserve is a habitat for ten reptile species (including two lizards of the genus Liolaemus), amphibians and fish. Other domesticated animals raised in 500 villages inhabited by Quetena Grande and Quetena Chico communities are the llamas and alpacas; however, grazing by these animals on the native grasses and plants in the Reserve has a detrimental effect on the conservation of the park.
The fauna is characterized by species that have adapted to extreme living conditions in the region, some of which are endangered.
Of the Chilean (Phoenicopterus chilensis), Andean (Phoenicoparrus andinus) and James (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) flamingos in the Reserve, their population was recorded in 1994 as 26,600. In addition, the Reserve is the habitat for 80 more species of birds, which include falcons, ducks, lesser or Darwin's rhea (Pterocnemia pennata), puna tinamou (Tinamotis pentlandii) and Andean goose (Chloephaga melanoptera).
Endemic birds found in this ecoregion also include the endangered Ash-breasted tit-tyrant (Anairetes alpinus), the critically threatened royal cinclodes (Cinclodes aricomae), the vulnerable Berlepsch's canastero (Asthenes berlepschi); and species of most minor concern the line-fronted canastero (Asthenes urubambensis), scribble-tailed canastero (Asthenes maculicauda), short-tailed finch (Idiopsar bracyurus), and gray-bellied flower-piercer (Diglosa carbonaria).
Mammals reported in the protected Reserve total 23 species, which include pumas, Andean foxes (Pseudalopex culpaeus) and vizcacha (rabbit-like).
Endangered species include: vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna), suri, Andean condor, keñua, puma (Felis concolor), andean cat (Felis jacobita), and quirquincho (Chaetophractus nationi).