The Annotated Ramsar List: El Salvador


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The Annotated Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance


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The Convention on Wetlands came into force for El Salvador on 22 May 1999. El Salvador presently has 7sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 207,387 hectares.

site; date of designation; region, province, state; surface area; coordinates
site; date de désignation; région, province, état; superficie; coordonnées
sitios; fecha de designación; región, provincia, estado; área; coordenadas

Área Natural Protegida Laguna del Jocotal. 22/01/99; San Miguel; 4,479 ha; 13°19'50"N 088°14'54"W. The site is formed by two permanent freshwater lagoons, Laguna del Jocotal and Laguna San Juan. It is one of the best examples of freshwater flooded wetlands in the Central America Pacific that in addition to its huge biodiversity, plays an important role in flooding control and climate regulation. It stands out by its richness and diversity of migratory and resident waterbirds. It is characterized by the presence of patches of Bravaisia integerrima, commonly known as "freshwater mangrove". The system supports several threatened species, like Plectrohla guatemalensis (Critically Endangered, IUCN Red List) and Puma yagouaroundi (CITES, appendix 1), among other species locally endangered. It is partially a National Protected Area. The area of the site has been extended in 2012 from 1,571 to 4,479 hectares. Ramsar site no. 970. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Complejo Bahía de Jiquilisco. 31/10/05; Usulutan; 63,500 ha; 13°13'N 088°32'W. Constitutes the largest extension of brackish water and saltwater forest in El Salvador, including numerous estuaries and canals, sand dunes and beaches, various isles of different sizes, a freshwater lagoon complex and seasonally saturated forests connected to the mangroves, of which at least 6 types are present. The site supports the habitat of the large majority of coastal waterbirds in the country and nesting site of species such as Rynchops níger, Sterna antillarum, Charadrius wilsonia and Haematopus palliatus. The surrounding beaches are also nesting sites for the green turtle (Chelonia agassizi), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivaceae) and leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriaceae), all of them threatened due to the overexploitation of their eggs. The site performs a very important function in the prevention of natural catastrophes by stabilizing the soil and preventing erosion. The most important economic activities involve fishing, shellfish extraction, aquaculture, salt extraction, cattle ranching and coconut plantations. There is some tourism in the area. Ramsar site no. 1586. Photos. Most recent RIS information: 2005.

Complejo Barra de Santiago. 23/07/14; Ahuachapán, Sonsonate; 11,519 ha; 13°42’24”N 90°0’59”W. The Site contains an area representative of the mangroves of the dry Northern Pacific ecoregion of Central America and a palm tree (Brahea salvadorensis) swamp representative of an ecosystem specific to the Mesoamerican dry tropical forest ecoregion. It supports numerous threatened or endangered species. Among these are four species of marine turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata, Lepidochelys olivacea, Dermochelys coriacea and Chelonia mydas) and other species severely threatened by their commercial trade value, such as the yellow-naped parrot (Amazona auropalliata). The mangroves also support about 75% of the commercially important coastal fauna in El Salvador. Many of these species, such as the shrimp of the Penaeidae family, depend on the mangroves as feeding, spawning and nursery areas. The Site is important for local communities as they depend on artisanal fishing for their livelihoods. It is threatened by unregulated urbanization, overgrazing, the growth of sugar cane and the increasing demand of wood for construction, as these have caused deforestation, changes in the hydrology of the area and pollution. Ramsar Site no. 2207. Most recent RIS information: 2013.

Complejo Güija. 16/12/10; Santa Ana; 10,180 ha; 14°17'N 089°29'W. Includes the Protected Natural Area San Diego y San Felipe Las Barras, a lagoon complex and its surrounding flooded areas. A part of the Güija complex is also representative of the Central America Dry Tropical Forest ecosystem, which is considered threatened by WWF. The ecosystem sustains IUCN Red List endangered species like the thorny iguana (Ctenosaura flavidorsalis) and species listed in appendices I and II of CITES such as Amazonia albifrons, Puma yagoaroundi and A. auropalliata. The Site also records 59,000 water birds including migratory species such as Anas discors, Anas clypeata and Dendrocygna bicolor, and a high fish diversity that includes 14 native species from El Salvador. These natural resources support fishing at both commercial and subsistence levels as well as other main productive activities such as agriculture and tourism. Invasive species like water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) in some lagoons, the expansion of agricultural land, intentional burning, and water pollution due to the lack of sanitation systems in the surrounding communities constitute the main threats. Ramsar Site No. 1924. Most recent information: 2010.

Complejo Jaltepeque. 02/02/2011; La Paz y San Vicente; 49,454 ha; 13°22’N 89°03’W. The second biggest brackish water area and intertidal forested wetland in El Salvador. The site includes a permanent shallow water marine ecosystem and other coastal wetlands such as estuaries, sandy beaches, salt flats, and coastal brackish and freshwater lagoons as well as permanent and stationary rivers and streams. Its diverse habitats provide nesting refuge for turtles like Chelonia mydas and Dermochelys coriacea and other vulnerable species such as the turtle Lepidochelys olivacea and crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus). The mangrove area in the site is a main resting area for aquatic migratory birds, where 64 species such as Larus spp, Thalasseus spp, and Charadrius spp have been reported. The site sustains fundamental local economic activities such as fishing, subsistence and industrial aquaculture, livestock, agriculture and tourism. It also provides a barrier against natural phenomena and enables aquifer recharge. The main threats to the site include the loss of forest due to the expansion of agricultural and livestock land, inappropriate fishing techniques, illegal hunting and water pollution generated by sewage coming for nearby communities and pesticide use. The Jaltepeque Complex also includes the Astillero Natural Protected Area (NPA) and is currently in the process of designating the Escuintla, Isla La Calzada y Tasajera as NPAs. The management plan for the Ramsar Site is under review, nevertheless conservation activities are currently done by local stakeholders. Ramsar Site no. 1935. Most recent RIS information: 2011.

Embalse Cerrón Grande.22/11/05; Chalatenango, San Salvador, Cuscatlán, Cabañas; 60,698 ha; 14° 03' N 89° 04' W. Artificial water reservoir that constitutes the largest freshwater body in the country. The reservoir provides relevant environmental products and services such as fisheries production and hydropower generation, water filtration and flood control. The site serves as a place of refuge, breeding and resting ground for several thousand waterbirds, both resident and migratory, and hosts the largest duck populations in the country. Apart from having the largest freshwater fish diversity in El Salvador, it hosts 12 of the 14 native fish species known in the country. Other threatened species in the site include paca (Agouti paca), cougar (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and the Red Brocket Deer (Mazama americana). Water pollution and eutrophication, deforestation, erosion, and the presence of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) constitute the greatest threats to the wetland. Ramsar site no. 1592.Most recent RIS information: 2005.

Laguna de Olomega. 02/02/10; San Miguel, La Unión; 7,557 ha; 13º19’N 088º04’W. Located in the Central American Dry Forest ecoregion, the Olomega Lake is the largest body of freshwater in eastern El Salvador. The site also covers the surrounding vegetation, such as the herb-dominated marshes and a patch of seasonally saturated forest, known as La Chiricana and one of the last relicts of this community type in the country. Within it the “mangle dulce” (Bravaisia integérrima), a very rare species in El Salvador, is abundant. The site harbors threatened species, e.g., Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata), Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) and the treefrog (Plectrohyla guatemalensis), and is a feeding and staging area for several migratory bird species (e.g., Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), etc). The site plays a major role in flood control, water purification and groundwater replenishment that will be later used,  by wells, by the local population (ca. 9,000 inhabitants). The main threats are water pollution, deforestation, cattle farming, overfishing and exotic invasive species, such as Water Hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes). Laguna de Olomega and the nearby El Jocotal (Ramsar site Nº 970) are located within the same watershed. Ramsar site no. 1899. Most recent RIS information: 2009.

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