The dying lake

Daniel Núñez's Image

Daniel Núñez (Guatemala) uses a drone to capture the contrast between the forest and the algal growth on Lake Amatitlán.

Daniel took this photograph to raise awareness of the impact of contamination on Lake Amatitlán, which receives around 75,000 tonnes of waste from Guatemala City every year. 'It was a sunny day with perfect conditions,' Daniel observed, 'but it is a sad and shocking moment'.

Cyanobacteria flourishes in the presence of pollutants, such as sewage and agricultural fertilisers, forming algal blooms that block out sunlight, killing any plants below. Not only this but they also produce toxins that can poison humans and other animals. When the algal bloom dies, it sinks to the bottom and decomposes, depleting the dissolved oxygen available for fish and other animal life.

Efforts to restore the Amatitlán wetland are underway but have been hampered by a lack of funding and allegations of political corruption.

Jen Guyton, photojournalist and judge said, 'What really makes this image work is the element of surprise. On first glance, the right-hand side of the image looks like a grassy field. But when you realise that it's water, you immediately understand that something is sorely wrong with this picture - it's a damaged ecosystem, and something must be done to fix it.'

How you can help

  • Avoid using chemical fertilisers in your garden, they contain phosphates and nitrates that can be washed into waterways and contribute to the degradation of water supplies and habitats. Instead, try composting your food waste at home and use this in your soil.
  • Care for your local rivers, lakes, beaches and wetlands by removing rubbish and reporting any pollution to your local waterway authority.
  • Think carefully about the places you visit as a tourist - will your presence put pressure on the ecosystem or environment? Make sure you leave no trace.

See all the images in focus.

Behind the lens

Daniel Núñez

Daniel Núñez


Daniel is a biologist and wildlife photographer with an interest in herpetology and botany, but also in all conservation issues. He has always had an interest in nature thanks to his parents with whom he visited protected areas and several different ecosystems in Guatemala. This was one of the motivations for him working in the fields of biology and photography.

Image details

  • DJI Mavic Mini 2
  • 24mm f2.8 lens
  • 1/60 sec at f2.8  •   ISO 100
  • Lake Amatitlán, Villa Canales, Guatemala
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