Fires triple in the world’s largest tropical wetland, Pantanal

The Pantanal is the largest wetland on the planet located in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. Photo by AFP.

Brasilia, Brazil – According to Brazil’s national space agency Inpe, the number of forest fires in  the world’s largest tropical wetlands, Pantanal, has tripled in 2020 compared to last year.

An increase of 201% was seen in this year, compared to 2019, with Inpe identifying 3,682 fires in the region from 1 January to 23 July. Last month was the worst June for fires in the neighbouring Amazon in over 13 years.

Since the records began in 1998, the 3,682 fires detected in the region so far this year are the highest number up to date. During the same time period, a total of 277 fires were detected in the area on 2018.

According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the fires were called  “a social danger since, in addition to the economic damage and the loss of biodiversity, fires cause respiratory problems, eye irritation and allergies,” by the members of environmental network the Pantanal Observatory.

While a minimum of 50,000 hectares were destroyed in the wildfire in Brazilian Pantanal last year, the organization disclosed that approximately 7,000 hectares were burnt over the past two days as a result of both “criminal activity” and “climactic factors”.

The wildfires often occur in the dry season in Brazil, however sometimes, they are deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching.

Pantanal – a 140,000-160,000 sq km area, is the home to thousands of species including jaguars, anteaters and migratory birds. Piranha, capuchin monkeys, green anacondas and thousands of plant species live in the basin which thrives off annual flooding following torrential rains.

The wetlands are located across Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia and are considered as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.