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Laguna Madre

© Lisa Monzón/The Nature Conservancy
From: Britton and Morton, 1989; Tunnell and Judd, 2002; GEMS - Laguna Madre, 2003; Castañeda and Contreras, 2001

The Laguna Madre is a long, narrow backwater bay separating Padre Island from the continent. It is a large hypersaline lagoon, characterized by a dry climate and a strong evaporation process. There is no riverine input into the system, although some drainage from ephemeral creeks does occur. The Laguna Madre extends along 443 km of shoreline in South Texas and northeastern Mexico. It stretches from the United States, south of the Corpus Christi Bay in Corpus Christi, Texas to Mexico, just south of the Soto la Marina River Mouth in the state of Tamaulipas. It is 6.4 to 9.6 km wide, and most of the Laguna Madre is only 0.20 to 0.35 m deep except in dredged areas from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which runs the entire length of the Laguna Madre with a channel 42 m wide and 3.6 m deep. The canal provides the Port of Brownsville with a protected channel to all the other Texas ports.

In Mexico, the Laguna Madre is the largest lagoon in the country, covering approximately 2,151 square kilometers and keeping the same hypersaline characteristics it brings from the Texas coast. Crustacean and fish populations in the lagoon play a key role in the fishing industry of the country. Environmental problems for this portion of the lagoon are mainly associated with the agricultural activities in the area, which have reduced the diverse vegetation, as well as the population of the mesquite species, Prosopis juliflora , that surrounds the lagoon. Agriculture has also been responsible for eolic erosion and ground salinization.

Important habitats within the Laguna Madre include seagrass meadows, shoal grass and tidal flats. The lagoon supports a wide assemblage of marine species including 80% of the North American population of redheads during the winter seasons. It also serves as an important habitat for migratory birds and a variety of recreationally and commercially important species.

Laguna Madre

Coordinates:   27.54° N  97.29° W

Selected Characteristics: (USEPA, 1999; Castañeda and Contreras, 2001; Tunnell and Judd, 2002)
Surface Area:   3,658 km2
Drainage Area:   150,700 km2
Average Daily FW Inflow:   25 m3/s
Average Depth:   1.1 m
Average Salinity:   36 ppt
Coastal Wetlands:   1,825 km2
Submerged Aquatic Vegetation:  773 km2

Britton, J.C. and B. Morton. 1989. Shore ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. University of Texas Press, Austin. 387 pp.

Castañeda L.O. and F.E. Contreras. 2001. Serie: Bibliografia Comentada sobre ecosistemas costeros mexicanos 2001. Centro de Documentacion Ecosistemas Litorales Mexicanos. Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Unidad Iztapalapa, Division C. B. S. Depto. de Hidrologia. Publicacion electronica (CD). ISBN:970-654-912-9. Mexico, D.F.

GEMS - Laguna Madre, 2003. Located on the web at:

Tunnell, J.W., Jr. and F.W. Judd. 2002. The Laguna Madre of Texas and Tamaulipas. Texas A&M University Press. 346 pp.

USEPA. 1999. Ecological condition of estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico. EPA 620-R-98-004. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Gulf Ecology Division, Gulf Breeze, Florida. 80 pp.

Additional Information:
National Park Reserve (Padre Island National Seashore)
The Nature Conservancy (South Padre Island Preserve)
Texas Gulf Ecological Management Sites (GEMS) - Laguna Madre
The Laguna Madre of Texas and Tamaulipas

Keywords:   Bay, Estuary, Lagoon, Seagrass meadow, Tidal flat, Eolic erosion, Ground salinization, Hypersaline

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Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi To cite GulfBase, use: F. Moretzsohn, J.A. Sánchez Chávez, and J.W. Tunnell, Jr., Editors. 2017. GulfBase: Resource Database for Gulf of Mexico Research. World Wide Web electronic publication., 20 January 2017.
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