Laguna José Ignacio

Laguna José Ignacio is a brackish body of water located in the department of Maldonado. Its landscapes are varied, with alternating sandy beaches, wetland ecosystems and grasslands. The narrow sandbar separating it from the Atlantic Ocean opens frequently, resulting in ecosystemic variations with unique characteristics.

This variety of habitats is home to specific fauna and flora, resulting in a landscape of great beauty and biodiversity. Its proximity to the village of José Ignacio, the most fashionable seaside resort of the Uruguayan coast, makes it a very popular lagoon but generates a high degree of impacts on the smallest of our lagoons.

In this area there are several species with restricted distribution that are listed as threatened. Among them we may mention Larus atlanticus (Olrog’s gull), abundantly recorded in this lagoon. There are also abundant records for the Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), constituting the most important area for this species in Uruguay (Azpiroz 2005, en CNAA 2005; Rilla 2004, en CNAA 2004). The black and white monjita (Xolmis dominicanus) is another threatened species that occurs regularly in the area. Other regularly occurring species that present conservation problems at the global level are the bay-capped wren-spinetail (Spartonoica maluroides) and the straight-billed reedhaunter (Limnoctites rectirostris).

It integrates the National Lake Park since 1977. BirdLife International lists it as IBA code UY017. IBAs are Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, which provide the BirdLife Partnership and local partners with a focus for conservation action, planning, and advocacy.

It is a favourite spot for surfers known as “El Pepe”, as the sandbanks in the ocean outside the lagoon’s sandbar create an ideal wave for this sport. It is also a popular kitesurfing spot.

PH: Silvia Zumarán y Hernán Sala

USES AND ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES

Small-scale family-based fishing has significantly decreased in the past years as a result of modifications in the lagoon’s regime resulting from the construction of a bridge in 1982, and increasing urbanisation. However, a small community of fishermen remains in the area adjacent to the sandbar, capturing mainly silverside (Odontesthes bonariensis) and species with high commercial value like the Sao Paulo shrimp (Penaeus paulensis).

Conventional agricultural production on lands adjacent to the lagoon includes cattle ranches and soy.

ISSUES

The main threat to this lagoon is urban development, particularly in the areas on the coast. Other issues, common to all our coastal lagoons:

1. Increased urbanisation.
2. Steady increase of day tourism, with the associated impacts: littering, ignorance of applicable regulations and non-existence of a genuine bond with the area that encourages care.
3. Increase of traffic on the seaside road and motor vehicles on sand dunes, beaches and coast of the lagoon.
4. Deforestation, particularly of native trees and forests.
5. Substitution of native flora for exotic species.
6. Degradation of the sandbar as a result of the above.
7. Impacts arising from road infrastructure, both the bridge and route 10.
8. Decreasing habitats for birdlife and wildlife in general.
9. Agricultural runoff.