Deserts: Chile & Bolivia

The precipitation that does fall rarely reaches the sea. Instead, it evaporates depositing a spectrum of minerals.

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Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar

El Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar is Located on a 700 metre-high cliff-top overlooking the Pacific. Despite the minimal rainfall, more then 20 species of cactus are still able to colonise the area by absorbing the ever-present mist of evaporating sea-water. Local inhabitants have developed this technique to create 'moisture nets' which drain the saturated air to provide water for the surrounding area. The village of Caleta Pan de Azúcar at the foot of the cliffs provides shelter for local fishermen.

The Atacama Desert, Chile

Each summer, during the 'Bolivian-Winter', rain does fall in some parts of the region and, due to the high-altitudes and consequent low temperatures, life can be sustained. The majority is clustered where underground water channels reach the surface forming grazing for herds of Llama, Alpaca and Vicuña. These, in turn, provide carrion for circling condors and vultures. The rock is largely volcanic in origin meaning which enriches the water with minerals. Through evaporation these minerals are deposited to form lakes and salt plans ranging in colour from bright cyan to deep ochre. It is said that these lakes give the migratory flamingos their colour.

Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

On a similar latitude to the Atacama  but on the Bolivian side of the Andes, La Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa is very similar in geography and ecology to its Chilean counter-part. It is the home to the largest salt-plane in the world - Salar Uyiuni. It has a surface area of just over 4000 square miles and a crust of up to 120 metres deep. The Salar is likely to play a significant role in the global economy in coming years as it is estimated to contain between 50 and 70% of the world's lithium deposits, a mineral of increasing importance due to its use in the production of batteries for electric cars. Given the correct management, it may be possible for this resource to dramatically change the economic future of one of the poorest counties in Latin America.