Laguna Garzón

Laguna Garzón is a kaleidoscope of ecosystems, including sandy beaches, wetlands, native forests, minor lagoons, grasslands and psamophile scrub. It provides a variety of ecosystemic services, among others fisheries. The best preserved patches of psamophile forest and scrub, formations that in the past covered the entire Uruguayan coast, are found here.

Laguna Garzón is unique among our lagoons in that it marks the dividing line between two departments. As a result, the departmental governments of Maldonado and Rocha have jurisdiction over it.

Importance for conservation

Laguna Garzón is recognised as an important area for conservation both nationally and internationally. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Bañados del Este” in 1976, and is a BirdLife International IBA under code UY018.

Like Laguna de Rocha, it is abundant in species that are conservation priority. Studies carried out in this area indicate that the area is home to 4 species of endemic plants (among them two cacti, Parodia erinacea and Parodia scopia (also Willbergia sp); one endemic species of frog (Melanophryniscus montevidensis) listed as vulnerable by UICN, a freshwater turtle (Acanthochelys spixii) and 5 species of near threatened migratory birds: Olrog’s gull (Larus atlanticus), the Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), the buff-breasted sandpiper (Calidris subruficollis) and another two species of sandpipers: the American golden plover (Pluvialis dominica ) and the white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis). There are abundant records for the black-necked swan (Cygnus melanchoryphus) and the coscoroba swan (Coscoroba coscoroba).

PH: Silvia Zumarán

National Protected Area System

Laguna Garzón was integrated into the National Protected Area System (SNAP) in 2014. In June 2019 the multi-partner Advisory Committee was created, and the management plan is being designed with the participation of area stakeholders (the authorities, residents, producers, business owners, fishers and others.

In the absence of a management plan, an issue of particular and urgent concern is the artificial opening of the sandbar. This weakens the delicate barrier that divides the lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean. Funding is being sought by our organisation to formalise a protocol based on solid, scientific data and not on uses and customs that may cause irreparable damage. One such protocol was designed for Laguna de Rocha which has been functioning with success for a number of years.

Uses and economic activities

In Uruguay urbanisation of the coast is growing towards the east, and this lagoon is under high pressure from real estate development. It is location, a mere 13 km from Jose Ignacio, the most fashionable resort of the Uruguayan coast, landmarks it as the future area for development of this resort.

Tourism and water sports are intense during the summer (December to March). Tourists visit for the day, mainly families, fishermen and people who practice water sports. It is a popular kitesurfing spot due to the prevailing wind conditions.

Fishing is abundant, and a community of families who work with this resource is established on both margins of the lagoon with species like silverside, flounder and mullet throughout the year and shrimp (Penaeus paulensis) in the season.

Ownership of land is varied. On the Maldonado and north-northeast margins it is mainly composed by relatively large, privately-owned farms, whereas on the Rocha margin near the coast the land was subdivided into developments composed by small lots.

Agricultural production is mainly free range livestock farming and soy plantations.

Multi-partner advisory committee (CAE)

FLC is a full voting member in the Advisory Committee (CAE, for its acronym in Spanish) to the Laguna Garzón protected area management.

Issues

The construction of a circular bridge on Laguna Garzón, which was inaugurated on 22 December 2015, intensified the issues of concern for the area which were studied before its construction by the University of the Republic and conservation NGOs like FLC, mainly:

  1. Increasing urban development.
  2. Increase of day tourism with the associated impacts (littering, ignorance of applicable regulations).
  3. Increase of motor vehicles on sand dunes, beaches and the coast of the lagoon.
  4. Deforestation and removal of native vegetation.
  5. Greater frequency of breaching of the sand barrier, and its degradation as a result.
  6. Impacts of road infrastructure, both of the bridge and from route 10.
  7. Reduction of habitats for wildlife as a result of all of the above.