Lake Titicaca, at 3810m the world's highest navigable freshwater lake, supports significant biodiversity and an extraordinary cultural life. Both Bolivia and Peru have designated their portions of the lake as Wetlands of International Importance.
Here are the brief entries in the Annotated Ramsar List that describe this remarkable ecosystem.
Lago Titicaca (Peruvian sector). 20/01/97; Puno; 460,000 ha; 15º50’S 069º30W. Lake Titicaca, in the Central Andes, is the world’s highest navigable freshwater lake, at 3810 m above sea level, shared between Peru and Bolivia. The wetland is a permanent freshwater lake, with associated marshes and extensive areas of emergent aquatic vegetation. There are a number of endemic fish species present and the site is extremely important for migratory shorebirds and Andean waterbirds, including three species of flamingo. Algae and submergent and floating vegetation is abundant, and the dominant emergent species is the "totora" Schoenoplectus tatora, which can reach up to seven meters. When the "totora" drifts away from the shore, it forms islands which are used by some members of the Uro community to live on. Most of them are fishermen and hunters, but they also make crafts to sell. Whilst subsistence fishing is the main use of the lake by the local communities, the surrounding areas are used for agriculture. Ramsar site no. 881.
Lago Titicaca (Sector Boliviano). 26/08/98; La Paz; 800,000 ha; 16º10’S 068º52’W. Transboundary site between Bolivia and Peru. The site is characterized by a mixture of freshwater permanent lakes, rivers, associated marshes and high Andean peatlands. It harbours several rare species and threatened fish, birds and invertebrate species endemic to the high Andes. The area is used for agriculture, fishing, sheep and cattle ranching. Small-scale tourism is becoming more important. Ramsar site no. 959.
Here are some photographs, emphasizing the unique traditional fishing boats used on the lake and the floating totora islands described above, all taken by Marlowe Tyson Peck in November 2000 except for one by Ramsar's Monica Herzig-Zürcher in 1993.
Traditional fisherman's boat characteristic of Lake Titicaca (Photo: Ramsar/Moníca Herzig Z., 1993)
Reed boat with ornate bowsprit (Photo: Marlowe Peck, 2000)
Fishing boat with semi-Viking reed bowsprit (possibly the tourist version) (Photo: Marlowe Peck, 2000)
Another boat, without the semi-Viking bowsprit.
A fisherguy and fisherkids plying their livelihood on Lago Titicaca.
Another fisher chap, 28 November 2000, just shy of 9:30 in the morning (fairly early in the a.m. to be up and functioning, I would have thought!).
Approaching a floating island.
Still approaching a floating island of totora.
Really really approaching a floating totora island.
Standing bouncily on a floating island of totora.
Shopping in the fancy floating-island boutique.
Solar panel powers the floating reed island on Lago Titicaca.
Floating island villager.
The town of Puno, in Peru.
Dinner: pick your own.