The Uruguayan savanna ecoregion used to be covered by grasslands, palm savannas, and gallery forests along the Uruguay, Negro, Yaguarí, Queguay, and Tacuarembó rivers. Unfortunately, agriculture and cattle ranching have heavily altered these natural communities. The savannas are critically endangered due to the fact that there are few small isolated patches of intact habitat remaining. The whole ecoregion has been severely altered by cattle ranching, one of the main pillars of the national economy in Uruguay. About 80% of Uruguayan territory is used for cattle ranching on natural and artificial savannas.
Some of Uruguay’s major environmental issues include:
- water pollution from meat packing/tannery industry;
- inadequate solid/hazardous waste disposal.
There is also an upcoming new scope of potential issues regarding mega-projects:
- paper pulp mills and other forestry-related industrial projects
- big-scale open-pit mining