The large shallow lagoon is situated to the east of the Colombian Andes, at an altitude of 2,543 metres, approx. 100 km north of the capital of Bogotá. Until the seventies, Laguna de Fúquene was the largest Colombian lake with a surface of 100 sq. km. Currently, the lagoon covers a surface of 30 sq. km only.
The Laguna de Fúquene is still the water source for 200,000 people in the catchment area, living mainly on dairy farming and agriculture as well as mining. As drinking water is constantly available, an important dairy farming developed in the region, supplying the capital of Bogotá.
In the last decades, the water inflow of the tributaries had declined considerably, the withdrawal of water for the irrigation of agricultural areas has multiplied. Furthermore, 6,700 tons of sediment enter the lagoon every year. In the last 40 years, the water level has decreased by more than one metre.
Additionally, untreated waste water and nutrient intake from animal husbandry have caused strong eutrophication of the water leading to massive growth of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and egeria (Egeria densa). This uncontrolled growth of both introduced plant species has caused a drop in oxygen content and has led to overgrown open water areas affecting not only the water quality, but the whole ecosystem of the lagoon.
About 200 families, fishermen and basket makers, live directly off the resources of the lagoon and its biodiversity. Laguna de Fúquene is habitat of various, partly endemic fish species. Over 120 native bird species live in the lagoon area and 32 migrant bird species rest on the lagoon during their annual migration.
For years, GNF’s partner organisation Fundación Humedales has collected well-founded data. Since 2001, the annual general bird census takes place at Christmas. Since 2003, bird censuses with focus on migratory and endemic bird species are conducted monthly at Laguna Fuquene.
In 2002, a quantitative assessment of the endemic waterfowl population was carried out. At the lake itself and in its surrounding swamps 86 water fowl species have been recorded, of these are 26 migratory bird species and 60 native birds. Three native species can be classified as endemic and the other species are rare, occasional or erratic in this area. Among the endemic species are Bogota Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus), Spot-flanked Gallinule (Gallinula melanops bogotensis) and Apolinar''s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari). Some species are severly endangered by loss of their habitat e.g. Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis bogotensis) and Yellow-Hooded Blackbird (Agelaius icterocephalus bogotensis).
Additionally, Fundación Humedales is working to achieve sustainable improvement of the living conditions of the native population. In 2009, a greenhouse was built where seedlings of native tree and bush species are being grown. The young plants are planted on the edges of fields and pastures, they provide retreat areas for plants and animals, connect isolated areas, and improve soil quality and increase biodiversity.
Parallel to these reforestation measures, water hyacinth from Laguna de Fúquene is being removed and converted to biological compost. This compost is used to facilitate reforestation, but is also sold to local gardeners and farmers.
Additionally, the promotion of locally produced handicraft as well as the marketing of the bio-fertilizer strengthen the local communal structures in the long term. The local population thus has the opportunity to improve its income in the above mentioned sectors.