The Pantanal is on fire and only a sustainable agenda can save the largest wetland in the world

C. N. Berlinck L. H. A. Lima A. M. M. Pereira E. A. R. Carvalho Jr R. C. Paula W. M. Thomas R. G. Morato About the authors

The Pantanal, the World's largest freshwater wetland, is suffering extreme drought since 2019. The amount of water in floodplains and rivers is reducing, resulting in extremely dry soil and vegetation, and increasing the risk of wildfire events. This scenario is likely due the negative synergies between deforestation and widespread use of fire in the Amazon, changing hydrological cycle and reducing rainfall in parts of the La Plata basin (Lovejoy and Nobre, 2018LOVEJOY, T.E. and NOBRE, C., 2018. Amazon tipping point. Science Advances, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. eaat2340. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aat2340. PMid:29492460.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aat2340...
). From January 2020 to date, several wildfires sweeped over 3.8 million ha (Figure 1), calculated from NPP-375 satellite data, with unpredictable impacts on biodiversity, ecological services, and human health. These fires may have affected at least 65 million native vertebrates and 4 billion invertebrates, based on known species densities. Affected species include the endangered jaguar (Panthera onca), giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus), crowned solitary eagle (Buteogallus coronatus) and hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus). Impacts on these species can be direct by injuries and death, or indirect due to habitat loss and resource shortage (Figure 2). Furthermore, the smoke can increase the risk of respiratory diseases that could worsen COVID-19 pandemic (De Oliveira et al., 2020DE OLIVEIRA, G., CHEN, J.M., STARK, S.C., BERENGUER, E., MOUTINHO, P., ARTAXO, P., ANDERSON, L.O. and ARAGÃO, L.E.O.C., 2020. Smoke pollution’s impacts in Amazonia. Science, vol. 369, no. 6504, pp. 634-635. PMid:32764060.) affecting local rural, indigenous, and traditional people. While climate change is one of the main drivers of out-of-control wildfire events worldwide (Abatzoglou and Williams, 2016ABATZOGLOU, J.T. and WILLIAMS, A.P., 2016. Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 113, no. 42, pp. 11770-11775. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1607171113. PMid:27791053.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.160717111...
) and natural ignition of fire may occur, in the Pantanal near 98% of the current wildfires were caused by human activities, either accidental or criminal. Climate change models forecasting recurrent extreme climatic events (Marengo et al., 2016MARENGO, J.A., ALVES, L.M. and TORRES, R.R., 2016. Regional climate change scenarios in the Brazilian Pantanal watershed. Climate Research, vol. 68, no. 2-3, pp. 201-213. http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/cr01324.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/cr01324...
). The projected episodes combined with predictions of a loss of up to 74% of native vegetation by 2030, increase the likelihood of severe droughts in the Pantanal (Miranda et al., 2018MIRANDA, C.S., PARANHO FILHO, A.C. and POTT, A., 2018. Changes in vegetation cover of the Pantanal wetland detected by Vegetation Index: a strategy for conservation. Biota Neotropica, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. e20160297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1676-0611-bn-2016-0297.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1676-0611-bn-2...
) and new catastrophic wildfire events may also occur. Despite being a relevant ecological factor in savannic ecosystems such as the Pantanal, recurrent, large-scale fires may lead to cumulative negative impacts on ecosystems and environmental services, as well as to undesirable social and economic outcomes. Concerted sustainability initiatives are urgently needed to avert or minimize the current trends, following valid agendas (Tomas et al., 2019TOMAS, W.M., DE OLIVEIRA ROQUE, F., MORATO, R.G., MEDICI, P.E., CHIARAVALLOTI, R.M., TORTATO, F.R., PENHA, J.M.F., IZZO, T.J., GARCIA, L.C., LOURIVAL, R.F.F., GIRARD, P., ALBUQUERQUE, N.R., ALMEIDA-GOMES, M., ANDRADE, M.H.S., ARAUJO, F.A.S., ARAUJO, A.C., ARRUDA, E.C., ASSUNÇÃO, V.A., BATTIROLA, L.D., BENITES, M., BOLZAN, F.P., BOOCK, J.C., BORTOLOTTO, I.M., BRASIL, M.S., CAMILO, A.R., CAMPOS, Z., CARNIELLO, M.A., CATELLA, A.C., CHEIDA, C.C., CRAWSHAW JUNIOR, P.G., CRISPIM, S.M.A., JUNIOR, G.A.D., DESBIEZ, A.L.J., DIAS, F.A., EATON, D.P., FAGGIONI, G.P., FARINACCIO, M.A., FERNANDES, J.F.A., FERREIRA, V.L., FISCHER, E.A., FRAGOSO, C.E., FREITAS, G.O., GALVANI, F., GARCIA, A.S., GARCIA, C.M., GRACIOLLI, G., GUARIENTO, R.D., GUEDES, N.M.R., GUERRA, A., HERRERA, H.M., HOOGESTEIJN, R., IKEDA, S.C., JULIANO, R.S., KANTEK, D.L.Z.K., KEUROGHLIAN, A., LACERDA, A.C.R., LACERDA, A.L.R., LANDEIRO, V.L., LAPS, R.R., LAYME, V., LEIMGRUBER, P., ROCHA, F.L., MAMEDE, S., MARQUES, D.K.S., MARQUES, M.I., MATEUS, L.A.F., MORAES, R.N., MOREIRA, T.A., MOURÃO, G.M., NICOLA, R.D., NOGUEIRA, D.G., NUNES, A.P., NUNES DA CUNHA, C., OLIVEIRA, M.D., OLIVEIRA, M.R., PAGGI, G.M., PELLEGRIN, A.O., PEREIRA, G.M.F., PERES, I.A.H.F.S., PINHO, J.B., PINTO, J.O.P., POTT, A., PROVETE, D.B., DOS REIS, V.D.A., DOS REIS, L.K., RENAUD, P.-C., RIBEIRO, D.B., ROSSETTO, O.C., SABINO, J., RUMIZ, D., SALIS, S.M., SANTANA, D.J., SANTOS, S.A., SARTORI, Â.L., SATO, M., SCHUCHMANN, K.-L., SCREMIN-DIAS, E., SEIXAS, G.H.F., SEVERO-NETO, F., SIGRIST, M.R., SILVA, A., SILVA, C.J., SIQUEIRA, A.L., SORIANO, B.M.A., SOUSA, L.M., SOUZA, F.L., STRUSSMANN, C., SUGAI, L.S.M., TOCANTINS, N., URBANETZ, C., VALENTE-NETO, F., VIANA, D.P., YANOSKY, A. and JUNK, W.J., 2019. Sustainability Agenda for the Pantanal Wetland: perspectives on a collaborative interface for science, policy, and decision-making. Tropical Conservation Science, vol. 12, pp. 1-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1940082919872634.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/19400829198726...
). Tax incentives and rewards for environmental services and biodiversity conservation should be provided to landowners and communities engaged in sustainable land use and conservation practices. The expansion of the protected area network and the promotion of green technologies for infrastructure projects are complimentary aspects of the desirable sustainability agenda. Considering the likelihood of recurrent, out-of-control wildfire events in the coming years, fire prevention policies and best management practices are critical and must be included in any use in the Pantanal. Here we stress the need for (A) continuous monitoring for early detection of fire risk and fire events; (B) the establishment of firefighter brigades in strategic locations in the region with continuous operation; (C) community education programs focused on proper fire use for management purposes, (D) effective enforcement of fire-use policies and (E) implementation of a wildlife rescue-rehabilltation centre. The future of the Pantanal wetland depends strongly on these strategies that connects economy, biodiversity conservation and traditional culture as to be performed by the proposed agendas.

Figure 1
Pantanal burned area per year until 9/25/2020.
Figure 2
Wildfire in Pantanal: 1 – firefighter; 2, 3 – burned area; 4, 5, 6 - dead animals.

References

  • ABATZOGLOU, J.T. and WILLIAMS, A.P., 2016. Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 113, no. 42, pp. 11770-11775. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1607171113 PMid:27791053.
    » http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1607171113
  • DE OLIVEIRA, G., CHEN, J.M., STARK, S.C., BERENGUER, E., MOUTINHO, P., ARTAXO, P., ANDERSON, L.O. and ARAGÃO, L.E.O.C., 2020. Smoke pollution’s impacts in Amazonia. Science, vol. 369, no. 6504, pp. 634-635. PMid:32764060.
  • LOVEJOY, T.E. and NOBRE, C., 2018. Amazon tipping point. Science Advances, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. eaat2340. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aat2340 PMid:29492460.
    » http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aat2340
  • MARENGO, J.A., ALVES, L.M. and TORRES, R.R., 2016. Regional climate change scenarios in the Brazilian Pantanal watershed. Climate Research, vol. 68, no. 2-3, pp. 201-213. http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/cr01324
    » http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/cr01324
  • MIRANDA, C.S., PARANHO FILHO, A.C. and POTT, A., 2018. Changes in vegetation cover of the Pantanal wetland detected by Vegetation Index: a strategy for conservation. Biota Neotropica, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. e20160297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1676-0611-bn-2016-0297
    » http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1676-0611-bn-2016-0297
  • TOMAS, W.M., DE OLIVEIRA ROQUE, F., MORATO, R.G., MEDICI, P.E., CHIARAVALLOTI, R.M., TORTATO, F.R., PENHA, J.M.F., IZZO, T.J., GARCIA, L.C., LOURIVAL, R.F.F., GIRARD, P., ALBUQUERQUE, N.R., ALMEIDA-GOMES, M., ANDRADE, M.H.S., ARAUJO, F.A.S., ARAUJO, A.C., ARRUDA, E.C., ASSUNÇÃO, V.A., BATTIROLA, L.D., BENITES, M., BOLZAN, F.P., BOOCK, J.C., BORTOLOTTO, I.M., BRASIL, M.S., CAMILO, A.R., CAMPOS, Z., CARNIELLO, M.A., CATELLA, A.C., CHEIDA, C.C., CRAWSHAW JUNIOR, P.G., CRISPIM, S.M.A., JUNIOR, G.A.D., DESBIEZ, A.L.J., DIAS, F.A., EATON, D.P., FAGGIONI, G.P., FARINACCIO, M.A., FERNANDES, J.F.A., FERREIRA, V.L., FISCHER, E.A., FRAGOSO, C.E., FREITAS, G.O., GALVANI, F., GARCIA, A.S., GARCIA, C.M., GRACIOLLI, G., GUARIENTO, R.D., GUEDES, N.M.R., GUERRA, A., HERRERA, H.M., HOOGESTEIJN, R., IKEDA, S.C., JULIANO, R.S., KANTEK, D.L.Z.K., KEUROGHLIAN, A., LACERDA, A.C.R., LACERDA, A.L.R., LANDEIRO, V.L., LAPS, R.R., LAYME, V., LEIMGRUBER, P., ROCHA, F.L., MAMEDE, S., MARQUES, D.K.S., MARQUES, M.I., MATEUS, L.A.F., MORAES, R.N., MOREIRA, T.A., MOURÃO, G.M., NICOLA, R.D., NOGUEIRA, D.G., NUNES, A.P., NUNES DA CUNHA, C., OLIVEIRA, M.D., OLIVEIRA, M.R., PAGGI, G.M., PELLEGRIN, A.O., PEREIRA, G.M.F., PERES, I.A.H.F.S., PINHO, J.B., PINTO, J.O.P., POTT, A., PROVETE, D.B., DOS REIS, V.D.A., DOS REIS, L.K., RENAUD, P.-C., RIBEIRO, D.B., ROSSETTO, O.C., SABINO, J., RUMIZ, D., SALIS, S.M., SANTANA, D.J., SANTOS, S.A., SARTORI, Â.L., SATO, M., SCHUCHMANN, K.-L., SCREMIN-DIAS, E., SEIXAS, G.H.F., SEVERO-NETO, F., SIGRIST, M.R., SILVA, A., SILVA, C.J., SIQUEIRA, A.L., SORIANO, B.M.A., SOUSA, L.M., SOUZA, F.L., STRUSSMANN, C., SUGAI, L.S.M., TOCANTINS, N., URBANETZ, C., VALENTE-NETO, F., VIANA, D.P., YANOSKY, A. and JUNK, W.J., 2019. Sustainability Agenda for the Pantanal Wetland: perspectives on a collaborative interface for science, policy, and decision-making. Tropical Conservation Science, vol. 12, pp. 1-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1940082919872634
    » http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1940082919872634

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    11 June 2021
  • Date of issue
    2022

History

  • Received
    02 Oct 2020
  • Accepted
    14 Oct 2020
Instituto Internacional de Ecologia R. Bento Carlos, 750, 13560-660 São Carlos SP - Brasil, Tel. e Fax: (55 16) 3362-5400 - São Carlos - SP - Brazil
E-mail: bjb@bjb.com.br