The Pantanal Wetlands – Teeming With Wildlife
The Pantanal is an enormous seasonal floodplain known as the largest all wetland areas in the world. The name Pantanal comes from the Portuguese word pântano which can be translated to marsh, quagmire, bog, swamp, or wetland. The Pantanal consists of a variety of sub-regional ecological systems that have distinct hydrological, ecological and geological characteristics. More than two thirds of the area’s floodplains become completely submerged during the rainy seasons. These special climatic conditions nurture a diverse array of biologically distinct aquatic plants which in turn sustain and support a great variety of water and land animal species.
Kilometers of Nature
Located in central Western Brazil, stretching across Eastern Paraguay and Eastern Bolivia, the Pantanal consists of hundreds of thousands of kilometers of savannas, flooded grasslands and tropical forests. Although the Pantanal is not as famous as the Amazon Rainforest situated to the north of it, it is home to a wide and unique range of plants, many of which are highly adaptable and relatively resistant to natural hazards like drought and fire. It also hosts the greatest concentration of wildlife in South America.
Aside from being a safe and regular habitat for thousands of plant, bird, fish and reptile species, the Pantanal Wetlands also provide vital sanctuaries for migrating birds, nursing grounds critical to aquatic life and a safe refuge for various animals including some rare species like the march deer, the hyacinth macaw, the maned wolf and the giant river otter, all of which receive the sustenance they need in the wetlands’ vast expanses of lagoons, marshes, rivers and lakes.
Nature on all Sides
The Pantanal Wetlands are almost completely surrounded by forests and savannas. To the West and Northwest they border with the dry Chiquitano forests, to the Northwest and West the dry Arid Chaco forests and to the South, the Humid Chaco lowland region. The Cerrado savannas lie to the Southeast, East and North of the Pantanal and cover 21% of Brazil. They are known as the largest woodland savannas in South America.
Conservation and Preservation
Although large areas of the Pantanal are as yet untouched and unharmed, there are severe threats to the local fauna and flora as well as the ecological stability of the area. As an emerging economy, Brazil is undergoing rapid expansion in many areas, including agriculture and ranching. This has a positive effect on many areas but a negative effect on nature and wildlife in general and specifically on the animals that rely on the sensitive environmental balance of the Pantanal wetlands. Threats include unsustainable farming practices, hydroelectric power plant construction, illegal mining and unregulated tourism practices. While the Pantanal ecosystem is regarded as one of the most preserved wetlands of the world, less than 2% of the territory enjoys official government ordered protection, and as the country is developing so fast this could become a devastating problem in the not so distant future. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has several initiatives underway with the aim of working on the ground to conserve the Pantanal for generations to come.