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Urban nature reserves are based in the preservation of the original nature of sites that present acceptable conservation conditions. They are located around big cities, in order to allow access to their residents.

Their goal is to protect lagoons as natural centers of urban water depuration; to improve life quality for local communities and to maintain a healthy environment for all. In addition, they are intended to promote activities such as ecological tourism, recreation, education, research, sports in contact with nature and any other activity that does not damage the integrity of the ecosystem.


1- Urban Coastal Reserve

The Río Gallegos Urban Coastal Reserve (RCU), since its inception in 2004, enjoyed the support, investigation work and assistance provided by Ambiente Sur’s partner institutions, researchers and volunteers. We were a substantial part of the interdisciplinary and cross-institutional work that culminated with our Management Plan submitted to local authorities.

Since 2007, via an agreement signed with the Río Gallegos Environmental Agency, we support the management of this protected area with personnel, resources and technical assistance, which imply different tasks in the area.

Tours within the Reserve with the city’s Conservation Agents, in order to avoid inappropriate practices such as unauthorized rubble and waste disposal, breaking of the perimeter wire fence, intrusion of domestic animals and hunting, among others.

Since the installation of the fence around the RCU, cleaning tasks are regularly carried as part of awareness-raising activities.

Other actions in the RCU: Research and monitoring on bird species presence/absence, abundance and behaviors, awareness campaigns, bird observation conferences.

The bird species that must be protected are: Ruddy-headed goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps), Hooded grebe (Podiceps gallardoi), Magellanic plover (Pluvianellus socialis), Red knot (Calidris canutus) and Austral canastero (Asthenes anthoides). All of them are endangered and require our commitment and care of the protected area to avoid losing them.

Field trips are routinely organized in order to survey bird population and compile data, following different study methodologies according to the time of year. During the winter, one of our most important tasks is to collect data on the winter presence in the Gallegos River Estuary of the Hooded grebe (or Macá tobiano, in Spanish), an endemic and "critically endangered" species in Argentina.

2- Urban Nature Reserves System in Río Gallegos

The Río Gallegos Urban Nature Reserves System was created in 2009. It includes several bodies of water and natural areas in the city: the former Startel plot, now the site of the Municipal Historical Archive, and several lagoons: Ortiz; de los Patos; de Marina; María la Gorda; an unnamed lagoon located in the Chacras neighborhood, and another unnamed lagoon in the city landfill.

The purpose of the Urban Nature Reserves System is to protect the lagoons in their role of natural centers of urban water depuration, to improve life quality for city residents and to keep a healthy environment for all. Also, to generate activities such as ecological tourism, recreation, education and research, sports in a natural setting and any other activity that does not damage the ecosystem’s integrity.

There are many advantages of having protected urban areas, especially when it is a known fact that 88% of Argentina‘s population lives in cities with more than 2,000 inhabitants and that the world is facing a global trend of urban population growth. These kinds of ecosystems tend to disappear when isolated and fragmented, with high pollution and loss of fauna and flora, a problem that also affects Argentina.

In order to appreciate our natural reserves it is necessary to understand that there is a difference between a natural reserve and city parks or public squares. The concept of natural reserve is based on preserving the original nature of a site that is in an acceptable state of conservation, located in the outskirts of large urban centers, in order to allow access to its inhabitants.

In Río Gallegos’ case, the protection of these natural ecosystems around the urban area intends to achieve that bodies of water can be appreciated for their natural landscaping and environmental benefits and their importance for outdoor recreation.

The achievement of this important goal for the city of Río Gallegos was the result of community involvement that culminated in the formal inauguration of the public hearing held in November 2007, when the draft Ordinance for the creation of the Municipal System of Urban nature reserves in the capital city of the province of Santa Cruz was submitted.

Later on, in 2009, Municipal Ordinance # 6762 was passed by the city legislative council of Rio Gallegos..

Laguna Los Patos Reserve

María La Gorda Reserve

Marina Reserve

Laguna Ortiz Reserve

Former Startel plot Reserve


  1. The Río Grande Urban Nature Reserves System

Like the Gallegos River Estuary, the city of Río Grande, in the neighboring province of Tierra del Fuego, is a site of international importance for shorebirds. It has two urban nature reserves within the city that serve as a complement of the Atlantic Coast Provincial Reserve in the conservation effort for of shorebirds and other local species.

Thanks to the specific funding obtained, Ambiente Sur has supported local conservation efforts and achieved the following goals:

  • Creation of the Urban Nature Reserves System

  • Installation of interpretation infrastructure (signs, fences and viewing platforms)

  • Implementation of awareness campaigns

  • Design and setup of the Atlantic Coast Reserve Interpretation Center

Works are underway to create two additional urban nature reserves that will be added to the current system.


  1. The Chalten Urban Nature Reserves System

The town of El Chaltén (Santa Cruz) is located inside the Los Glaciares National Park. It is an important environmental tourism destination in Argentina also acknowledged worldwide.

In March of 2016, the following urban nature reserves were created in this mountain village:

  • La Lagunita Reserve

  • De las Vueltas River Bank Reserve

This community initiative was based on the urgent need to protect areas in El Chaltén that were already declared 'Green Sites' but, due to the population growth, could have been affected by a division into land plots with purposes other than those established by the Municipal Urban Code. If these areas would have not been adequately protected immediately under the specific legal conservation status they now enjoy, they would have faced the loss of their great natural, socio-cultural and landscape values including, among other things, the loss of the last native forest site in El Chaltén.

The participation of the local community in different phases of this process has been crucial for the project’s progress, which results in a greater knowledge on the biodiversity and importance of protected sites. It has enhanced awareness of the environmental benefits, the recreational and educational possibilities that these areas present for locals and visitors. It has also made clear that there is a need to define urban planning in a way that does not interfere with protected sites.

Both the lagoon located near the Centro Andino (Andes Mountains Center) and the riverside path of the Las Vueltas River are deemed sites of high conservation value for local biodiversity and, since they are close to the urbanized area, they are an important asset for environmental education, recreation and sports activities, and they bring significant environmental benefits for the community.


Ambiente Sur leads the regional network that works for the conservation of urban nature reserves in Southern Patagonia’s cities via the RNU Network of this bioregion. Our organization was the original promoter of Río Gallegos’s urban nature reserves in 2009, and also supported its reactivation in 2015. The Network is integrated by El Calafate, the Santa Cruz Coal Basin area, Punta Arenas (Chile), El Chaltén, Ushuaia and Río Grande (both in the Tierra del Fuego province) and Río Gallegos.

Coordinated by Ambiente Sur, the 1st Southern Patagonia Urban nature reserves Conference was held in Río Gallegos, under the slogan "Urban nature reserves: a gateway to conservation". This conference later continued in a related meeting.

These meetings sought to strengthen the regional articulation of urban nature reserves, to increase the value of these conservation units and the ability to impact the conservation agenda.


Representatives of non-government organizations from all around Southern Patagonia attended these meetings, and organizations that support this process, such as Fundación Patagonia Natural, Fundación Avina Argentina and COAS/Aves Argentinas (Southern Patagonia Birdwatchers Club, Río Gallegos Chapter) also participated.

This network strengthens local and regional conservation tasks, which also prompted Ambiente Sur to become a member of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), an organization that includes areas all around the American Continent that, just like the Gallegos River Estuary, are resting and feeding sites for migratory shorebirds.

The main goal is to "strengthen the articulation of organizations related to urban nature reserves in order to meet the conservation objectives and to achieve greater visibility of the natural reserve system in the community and with authorities". Its main interest areas are conservation, citizen participation and environmental education related to UNRs.


This work ultimately points to emphasize the importance of urban nature reserves while intending to take them to next level to the national protected areas system wherever they have not been considered yet. An area that can potentially become a urban natural reserve and fails to be declared so, means losing great opportunities to generate sites that appeal to the public and lead them to conservation and natural environment matters.

As we tend to repeat, all of us as city dwellers are responsible for the care and conservation of these areas, since their existence improves our life quality.

Currently, we are carrying out various projects in order to strengthen the Network, promoting actions in progress and supporting new cites willing to work in the urban nature reserves field.

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