Conserving a Valuable Lake - Yuriria, Mexico

laguna de yuriria lake conservation reforestation ecosystem guanajuato mexico

Yuriria Lake is a 'novel' ecosystem, meaning man-made.[1]  The Spanish created the lake in 1548 by diverting the Lerma River to fill former swamplands--their first hydrological project in the New World.  The resulting water source exuded colonial power; around it the Spanish built forts and resettled natives.  Today, 1,500 families depend on its waters for industries like fishing, tourism and agriculture.[2]  Its ecological importance too, has been both nationally and internationally recognized.  Therefore, efforts to conserve the lake are currently underway.

Recognizing a Valuable Ecosystem
Such a sizable body of water (23 square miles / 15,000 acres) significantly impacts local climate.  The lake helps regulate temperate extremes and contributes to atmospheric humidity, especially important in such a semi-arid region.[3]  For wildlife, Yuriria provides habitat to many land, aquatic and avian species, including several endangered birds.  It's an important layover along Mexico's central bird migration route, and at any time houses between 24,000 and 105,000 waterfowl.  Recognitions include:
  • 1999 - declared Area of Importance for the Conservation of Birds (AICAS) by the National Commission of Biodiversity (Conabio).[4]  
  • 2004 - declared Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention .[5]

Conserving a Valuable Ecosystem
Beginning in 2011, the state government of Guanajuato allocated 50 million pesos ($2.6 million USD) to "clean up [Yuriria's] waters, and turn the natural reserve into one of the most important tourist destinations in the whole country."[6]  Initiatives included:
  • Building a pier with promenade, bike paths and view points.
  • Building water treatment facilities to reduce contamination of the lake.[7]
  • Hiring barges that remove invasive water lilies which would otherwise blanket the lake.
  • Stocking the lake with 220,000 catfish and crappies
  • Supplying 180 boats to 800 local fishermen.[6]
  • Reforesting the watershed...
laguna de yuriria lake conservation reforestation ecosystem guanajuato mexico white paint tree
Painting tree-bottoms white to protect them from insects,
according to the painter.
laguna de yuriria lake conservation reforestation ecosystem guanajuato mexico willow cutting sauz salix
A willow tree planted by cuttings.

The forests around Yuriria Lake benefit from stabilized temperatures and increased humidity.  Conversely, the lake benefits from a forested watershed, which helps retain rainwater runoff and purify water that enters it.  Lakes and forests form a symbiotic relationship.  That's why the Guanajuato's Ecological Institute and volunteers have been reforesting the Yuriria's watershed.  On San Pedro Island, for example, they planted 300 trees (some pictured below) in August of 2016.[8]   Other benefits of reforestation include wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, improved recreation and beautification, and economic benefits like "fodder, fuelwood and flavorings."[9]

laguna de yuriria lake conservation reforestation ecosystem guanajuato mexico ash fresno tree
A planted fresno, or Ash.

laguna de yuriria lake conservation reforestation ecosystem guanajuato mexico tree jacaranda
A planted Jacaranda.
See Trees of Mexico

laguna de yuriria lake guanajuato mexico iglesia church

For more lake restoration, check out Iowa's Lake Restoration Program.

[1] Miller & Bestelmeyer, What's Wrong with Novel Ecosystems, Really? Restoration Ecology.
[2] "Laguna de Yuriria," Wikipedia
[3] Laguna de Yuriria: Área Natural ‘Protegida’Periodico Correo. Feb. 2nd, 2017.
[4] "Laguna de Yuriria y su Zona de Influencia," Instituto de Ecologico del Estado.
[9] Interpretive sign on San Pedro Island, Gto Instituto de Ecologico del Estado

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