Brazilian Pantanal

In Brazil, the Pantanal covers the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, being considered an Ecosystem Complex, with landscapes characterized by cerrados and cerradões, in periodic inundations, floodable fields and aquatic environments, such as freshwater or brackish lagoons, rivers, ebb, and corixos, all that is the Pantanal biome that extends for 160 km².

In the region, landscapes of Cerrado, Chaco, Amazônia, Mata Atlântica, and Bosque Seco Chiquitano meet. Because it is a wetland, there is no consensus on the limits of the Pantanal, approximately 136 to 160 thousand km². IBGE is reviewing these numbers and is expected to publish a new definition in 2019.

The main origin of the Pantanal is the Paraguay River, which is 2,621 kilometers long. Its springs are in the region of Brejal das Sete Lagoas, a complex of bays, and in Serra do Arapoé, in Diamantino, Mato Grosso. The name Paraguay means “river of palm crowns,” in the Guaraní language. The term is related to the palm trees that surrounded its waters (SILVA, 2006).

There are at least 3,500 plant species, 550 birds, 124 mammals, 80 reptiles, 60 amphibians, and 260 species of freshwater fish in the biome, some of which are at risk of extinction in other regions, such as the tuiuiú and the jaguar, flag species of the biome. The climate is hot and humid in the summer, cold and dry in the winter. Most of the soils in the Pantanal are sandy and have native pastures, which serve as food for the region’s herbivores and cattle, which area’s settlers have introduced.

The Pantanal provides diverse ecosystem services to humans. Among them, we can highlight the regulation of floods, provision of food and water resources, and climate regulation. It serves as habitat for fauna and flora, being the nursery of numerous species of fish in the rivers of the Center-West, South, and Southeast of the country.

Among its landscapes are the bays – lagoons of different shapes and dimensions; salt evaporation ponds – bays with a high concentration of alkaline salts; mountain ranges – elevations of the terrain that separate bays; jungle capons – similar to the mountain ranges, but circular, ebbs – channels that serve as outlets for the bays and rivers; corixos – small rivers that connect bays.

The Pantanal is not just one. Embrapa Pantanal studies identified 11 wetlands, each with its own soil, vegetation, and climate characteristics. They are known as the wetlands of Cáceres, Poconé, Barão de Melgaço, Paraguay, Paiaguás, Nhecolândia, Abobral, Aquidauana, Miranda, Nabileque and Porto Murtinho.

There are areas of greater water contribution, the so-called water towers, located on the Upper-Paraguay, Sepotuba, Jauru, and Cabaçal river plateau. These regions represent almost 30% of the water that maintains the flood pulse of the biome.

Threats to the Upper Paraguay Basin (UPB) directly affect the integrity of the Pantanal, which depends on the Plateau areas, where the springs are located for the maintenance of its landscapes. Deforestation on the plateau, disorderly construction of hydroelectric projects, waterway projects, and mining are the main threats to the biome.