This study aimed to determine if estuarine meiofaunal communities of Uruguay (South America) vary between permanently open estuaries and open/closed coastal lagoons, or if they respond to the sediment composition. In Uruguay, estuaries and coastal lagoons vary in the degree of connectivity to the sea and in the sediment composition; sediments in estuaries are characterized by fine-medium sands but sediments vary from lagoon to lagoon (either fine-medium or coarse sand). Taxa richness (total = 16) showed less temporal variability in lagoons than in estuaries, due to patterns of presence/absence of the less abundant taxa. However, no major response to habitat was found in the most abundant groups: polychaetes (6% of total fauna) were on average 5% more abundant in lagoons than in estuaries. Some level of zonation, within estuaries and lagoons, was found in the most abundant groups, nematodes (63% of total fauna) and copepods (15%) in response to medium and fine sands. In addition, sediment type modulated seasonal patterns in the frequency of presence/absence in ostracods, polychaetes and oligochaetes. For instance, in polychaetes and ostracods the increase in the frequency of absences, occurring from summer to winter, was stronger in lagoons and estuaries dominated by fine sands. The lagoon habitat appears to ameliorate the effects of unfavourable (winter) conditions in less abundant meiofaunal taxa. In summary, sediment fractions explain spatial patterns in the average abundance of organisms (e.g. nematodes) as well as the seasonal changes in frequency of presence/absence (e.g. polychaetes). (c) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.