The government of El Salvador has designated its fourth Wetland of International Importance, effective World Wetlands Day 2010 -- Laguna de Olomega (7,557 hectares, 13º19’N 088º04’W). As described by Ramsar’s Nadia Castro, the Olomega Lake, located in the Central American Dry Forest ecoregion, 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.
Photos by Lino Sánchez and Enrique Barraza