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Tul Reforestation Project

Tuleros preparing tul for planting in Lake Atitlán.

Tuleros preparing tul for planting in Lake Atitlán.

A natural, native phytoremediation solution.

The tul plant (scirpus californicus) grows naturally in the water near the shores of Lake Atitlán. It is one of the most important plants in the lake for filtering pathogens, absorbing excessive nutrients, and preserving a healthy ecosystem. It provides a protective barrier and filter against contaminants.

Tul plants grow rapidly and in the process absorb nitrogen, phophorus, and other undesirable nutrients from the water. Tul becomes covered with a biofilm of bacteria that converts even more nutrients and filters the water that passes by. Each plant has billions of beneficial microbes living on it, which consume even more nutrients and also filter the water.

Tul forests also provide habitat for waterfowl, fish, crustaceans, and migratory birds, and other aquatic life, contributing to biodiversity and maintaining food sources for local communities. Harvested tul is also used make handicrafts to sell locally and export to foreign markets, a critical source of income for many families.

Several years ago, Lake Atitlán experienced an excessive loss of tul forests. This was caused by a significant rise in water levels, due to hurricanes that also washed excessive amounts of nutrients into the lake, triggering recurring algae blooms.

More than 1.5 kilometers of shoreline planted since 2016!

The Lake Atitlán Environmental Interests Group is spearheading efforts by local organizations and volunteers to reforest the lake with tul.

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Restoring tul reed forests to plantable areas of Lake Atitlán’s shoreline is a low-cost, natural solution that can mitigate the effects of constant pollution.

It is vital that as much tul as possible be restored, and since 2016 Lake Atitlán Environmental Interests group has coordinated a collaborative tul planting effort by local organizations and volunteers including  the Tuleros of Chajil Ch’upup, traditional guardians of the tul.

LAEIG, in conjunction with varying organizations such as AMSCLAE, CONAP, Sembremos Tul, and Amigos del Lago, usually plants tul on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month. So if you are at the lake please check our confirmed plantings on our upcoming events page, and come volunteer. It’s a fun way to meet people from local communities and all over the world, as well as a practical way to give.

A tul forest in Lake Atitlán at sunrise.

A tul forest in Lake Atitlán at sunrise.