Infernos devastate Brazil’s Pantanal wetland, breaking records amid dire conservation warnings

June 16, 2024 5:44 PM IST

Brasilia (Brazil), June 16 (ANI): Brazil’s Pantanal, known as the world’s largest tropical wetland, is currently engulfed by an unprecedented wave of fires, setting grim new records for June, CNN reported.
Aerial views of this vast expanse reveal billowing smoke and the stark, vivid hues of the flames, while closer inspection of the charred aftermath reveals a terrifying scene.
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has documented as many as 733 fires in the Pantanal biome so far in June alone. This figure surpasses the previous record set in 2005, which stood at 435 fires in the entire month of June.
The state of Mato Grosso do Sul, which covers 60 percent of the Pantanal, is facing an alarming ‘danger’ advisory due to a looming heat wave, which is expected to raise temperatures 5oC above average over the next three to five days , as warned by Brazil’s National Meteorological Institute. Institute (INMET), as reported by CNN.
The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Brazil has issued a dire forecast, warning that 2024 could be the worst year ever for the Pantanal. The dry season has only just begun, yet the number of recorded fires this year has increased by a whopping 898 percent compared to the same period in 2023, based on INPE data.

Cynthia Santos, a conservation analyst for WWF Brazil, emphasized the urgent need for action, stating: “It is necessary to act quickly by strengthening the (fire) brigades and counting on the support of local communities to avoid a catastrophe prevent.”

The ecological balance of the Pantanal depends on what scientists call the “flood pulse.” During the wet season from November to March, large parts of this plain are flooded, only to retreat during the dry months from April to September. This cyclical flooding transforms the Pantanal into a unique biome where vast areas alternate between terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
Wetlands like the Pantanal are crucial carbon sinks, adept at absorbing and sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Pantanal covers approximately 2,00,000 square kilometers, constitutes approximately 3 percent of the world’s wetlands and plays a crucial role in the global carbon cycle.
The devastating effects of these fires release significant amounts of greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere, exacerbating the greenhouse effect and global warming, according to CNN.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Pantanal has an unparalleled concentration of biodiversity in South America, even surpassing its better-known neighbor, the Amazon. Andre Luiz Siqueira, CEO of ECOA, an environmental NGO based in Mato Grosso do Sul, underlined its importance, noting: “The Pantanal is very important for the planet, it has unique wild areas that are fundamental to life on earth.”
This vast wetland serves as a refuge for numerous endangered and distinctive species, including jaguars, capybaras, black caimans, giant otters and hyacinth macaws. Moreover, it serves as a crucial stopover for approximately 180 species of migratory birds.
The Pantanal is currently facing what experts describe as a “hydrological crisis,” exacerbated by an intense drought that began in 2023 and has been exacerbated by the ongoing El Nino phenomenon, as highlighted by ECOA.
Although sporadic forest fires in the Pantanal are a natural phenomenon, some plant species in the region have developed adaptations to withstand fire, such as thick bark or seeds encased in hard shells.
In 2020, wildfires destroyed unique habitats and disrupted the livelihoods of the Pantanal’s diverse indigenous communities, underscoring the profound impact of these infernos on both the environment and human societies, CNN reported. (ANI)