Conservation of Nature

The coastal lagoons of Uruguay are part of a system of wetlands that spread from the country’s eastern seaboard to southeast Brazil.
The Foundation focuses on coastal lagoons because we aspire to preserve their great biodiversity, natural beauty and array of ecosystemic services of these unique areas for future generations.
These singular ecosystems, where the intermingling of fresh and salt water results in a wide biodiversity, play an important role in carbon sequestration. They act as buffers against the intensity of the ocean, reducing the impact of floods and attenuating droughts. They are highly productive areas, and sustain important economic activities like fisheries and tourism.
Their conservation, and that of their land and coastal areas, is a priority for the survival of hundreds of species – including ours.

What is a coastal lagoon?

Coastal lagoons are shallow water bodies separated from the ocean by a barrier, connected to it at least temporarily by one or more inlets and usually oriented parallel to the shore. There are four coastal lagoons in Uruguay: from west to east, Laguna José Ignacio, Laguna Garzón, Laguna de Rocha and Laguna de Castillos.

Why focus on coastal lagoons?

Coastal lagoons are an interface between land and sea. They absorb and store carbon, and reduce the impact of floods and droughts. They reduce the intensity of ocean waves, recharge aquifers and regulate hydrological systems.
Among the most productive ecosystems on the planet, they are also highly valuable landscapes and generate diverse economic activities. Their conservation, together with their adjacent land and sea areas, is essential to the wellbeing of future generations.

The coastal lagoons of Uruguay

The coastal lagoons of Uruguay are part of the Atlantic Watershed on the southeastern coast of Uruguay, covering an area of 9,266 km2 and containing the following lagoons: Laguna José Ignacio, Laguna Garzón, Laguna de Rocha, Laguna de Castillos y Laguna Negra (SNAP – MVOTMA, 2016). This coastal lagoon system is the southern remnant of a lagoon system which extends to the south of Brazil, of recent geological formation: it arose some 6,000 years ago with local sinkages and coastal rises of tectonic origin, which finalised with the stabilization of sea levels around 2,500 years ago (García-Rodríguez et al., 2001; García-Rodríguez, 2002 for SNAP – MVOTMA, 2016). 5,500 years ago the current lagoons were bays, joined with the open seas.

The Coastal Lagoons of Uruguay

Laguna José Ignacio

The smallest of our coastal lagoons, with an area of 1500 hectares, it is located in the department of Maldonado, a few kilometres from the tourist hotspot José Ignacio. It exhibits a variety of habitats, mainly wetlands and grasslands, and is well-known for the diversity of its bird life.

Laguna Garzón

A highly diverse environment with beaches, sand dunes, small lagoons, wetlands, forests and grasslands,  it was designated as a national protected area in 2014. A fragile sandbar, which opens several times a year both natural and artificially, separates it from the ocean.

Laguna de Rocha

This 7.300-hectare lagoon is recognised nationally and internationally as significant for conservation, particularly with regard to shorebird populations. A national protected area since 2010 and a Ramsar site since 2015, it is also separated from the ocean by a fragile sandbar.

Laguna de Castillos

Declared a Refuge for Fauna by decree 266/1966, it was designated as a national protected area in February 2020. This lagoon is singular in that it is connected to the ocean by a canal, the Arroyo Valizas, which gives it a unique configuration and an unusual landscape.

Marine Protected Areas

In Uruguay Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) comprise the areas between the coastline and 5 nautical miles into the Atlantic Ocean, which are not over 30 metres in depth. There are approximately 525 species of fish in the marine territory, few of which are of commercial interest. Marine areas are of great importance for the movement of cetaceans (whales and dolphins), and in these areas there are regular sightings, between June and October, of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) and the Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei), a species endemic to South America and a priority for conservation. It is the most threatened small cetacean and a conservation priority, as it is frequently caught in fishing nets.
FLC is starting to work in the MPAs, through awareness-raising actions and coordinating scientific studies with the University of the Republic on different aspects of their conservation.

Flora and Fauna

Our lagoons are home to a wide variety of native species, some of them endemic. These ecosystems are ideal breeding spots for fish and crustaceans, and also where the best preserved remnants of psamophile scrub are found. They are valuable birdwatching sites, as the varied ecosystems found around the lagoons provide refuge and food to very diverse species, some of them the largest and most beautiful that can be observed in our country.

Our Mission

Our mission is to promote the conservation and restoration of coastal lagoons and their adjacent land and sea areas by means of environmental education, research and awareness raising.

Our Values

Our work is inspired by respect, integrity and optimism. We value the diversity of life on the planet as a whole. We promote transparency and the active participation of the community in decision-making processes. We recognise community identity as a tool for development, and respect the diversity of our cultures, talents and experiences.

Our Vision

We envision healthy and prosperous communities, living in a harmonious relationship with their natural environment, the stewardship of which they are committed to.