Brazilian Journal of Biology
On-line version ISSN 1519-6984
The Pantanal hydrological cycle holds an important meaning in the Alto Paraguay Basin, comprising two areas with considerably diverse conditions regarding natural and water resources: the Plateau and the Plains. From the perspective of the ecosystem function, the hydrological flow in the relationship between plateau and plains is important for the creation of reproductive and feeding niches for the regional biodiversity. In general, river declivity in the plateau is 0.6 m/km while declivity on the plains varies from 0.1 to 0.3 m/km. The environment in the plains is characteristically seasonal and is home to an exuberant and abundant diversity of species, including some animals threatened with extinction. When the flat surface meets the plains there is a diminished water flow on the riverbeds and, during the rainy season the rivers overflow their banks, flooding the lowlands. Average annual precipitation in the Basin is 1,396 mm, ranging from 800 mm to 1,600 mm, and the heaviest rainfall occurs in the plateau region. The low drainage capacity of the rivers and lakes that shape the Pantanal, coupled with the climate in the region, produce very high evaporation: approximately 60% of all the waters coming from the plateau are lost through evaporation. The Alto Paraguay Basin, including the Pantanal, while boasting an abundant availability of water resources, also has some spots with water scarcity in some sub-basins, at different times of the year. Climate conditions alone are not enough to explain the differences observed in the Paraguay River regime and some of its tributaries. The complexity of the hydrologic regime of the Paraguay River is due to the low declivity of the lands that comprise the Mato Grosso plains and plateau (50 to 30 cm/km from east to west and 3 to 1.5 cm/km from north to south) as well as the area's dimension, which remains periodically flooded with a large volume of water.
Keywords : Pantanal of Brazil; water resources; hydrologic regime.