How does a lake disappear?

  • 23 January 2016
Abandoned boats in dried out lake Image copyright AP

The second largest lake in the South American country of Bolivia has completely dried up.

Lake Poopo used to be about 1,000 square kilometres big but it's been shrinking for several years and in December it completely evaporated.

It's bad news for wildlife, like fish and birds, who live in the area and depend on the lake for food.

More than 100 families have had to leave their homes in the last three years.

Image copyright AP
Image caption These satellite images show the dramatic difference between the lake filled with water in 1986 (on the left) compared with January 2016 (on the right) where it is almost completely dry

The lake has dried up before, and reappeared later on, but scientists have warned that recovery might not be possible this time.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Boats and nets are useless in the desert, so fishermen have had to look for another way to feed their families

No one knows for sure why the lake has disappeared, but repeated droughts caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon is thought to be an important factor.

Another reason could be that water from the rivers that feed into the lake has been diverted for mining and farming, meaning that less water reaches the lake itself.

More on this story