Natural Wonder: Salar de Uyuni

Natural Wonder: Salar de Uyuni

The Planet’s most incredible locations were created by nature! These “natural wonders” sustain diverse ecosystems. Today’s featured natural wonder: Salar de Uyuni, meaning “salt flat with enclosures”!

WHAT IS IT?
🏜 Earth’s biggest salt flat/desert! 10+ square km of salt in high plateau region of Andes in Bolivia, South America, 12,000 ft above sea level.
🏔 Surrounded by mountains (Tunupa, Kusku, Kusina), without drainage outlets.
❄ Surface is white solid salt crust a few meters deep, almost perfectly flat, with hexagonal formations and salt piles.
💧Crust covers mix of water, lacustrine mud, salt, and brine.

FUN FACTS 
🦖 Used to be giant prehistoric lake and can be seen from space.
🧂Contains about 10 billion tonnes of salt, of which 25,000 tonnes/year is mined.
🌋 Has several islands, with strange structures made of fossils and algae.
🪞 “World’s Largest Mirror”, 80 mi wide, when seasonal rains cover it with 1” deep calm water!
🪄Causes optical illusions, reflects colours, and provides 360-degree starscape at night.
🎬 Filming location for movies like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (planet Crait).

ECOSYSTEM ROLE
🐾 Home to giant cacti up to 300 years old and 39 ft high, Pilaya shrubs used for medicine, birds like Horned Coot and Andean Goose, and mammals like Andean Fox and Viscacha.
🦩 Breeding ground for Flamingos, including rare James’s Flamingos.

ECONOMIC ROLE
🔋Contains over 50% of Earth’s Lithium reserves.
🛰 Best place on earth for satellite calibration.
🚘 Car transport route.
🛫 Popular tourist destination.

THREATS
❗️Lithium mining, for rechargeable batteries and other uses, could damage its fragile ecosystem.