Threatened Lake of the Year 2007:

Pantanal Wetlands – Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia

 
"Threatened Lake of the Year 2007" is the South American Wetland Pantanal, informs the international foundation Global Nature Fund (GNF). Every year, on the occasion of World Wetlands Day, GNF highlights the threatened state of a unique water body to the world. Deforestation, monocultural farming, intensive cattle ranching as well as gold and diamond mining affect the 140.000 sq. km large wetland. The construction of new ethanol distilleries will increase the critical situation which might lead to the ecological devastation of world’s largest wetland by 2050.
 

The Pantanal, located in the heart of South America and shared by Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, is characterized by tropical forests, savannahs, rivers, lakes and swamps. "Soy bean and ethanol production in the catchment of the Pantanal is growing – at the expense of our nature", says Adalberto Eberhard, founder of the Brazilian nature conservation organisation ECOTROPICA. "Deforestation, erosion and pollution of the rivers and lakes in the Pantanal are the results of the extension of monocultures. The recent permission of the government of Mato Grosso do Sul for the construction of new ethanol factories will significantly contribute to the degradation of the Pantanal".

 

The government of the Province Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil recently authorized  the construction of new ethanol distilleries in the catchment of the Pantanal. More effluents will be discharged into the river system of the wetland. Savannahs with a high biodiversity will be transformed to sugar cane plantations. ECOTROPICA and GNF call upon the government to suspend this decision in order to avoid the severe negative impacts on the sensitive ecosystems of the Pantanal. As a result of the rising demand for biofuels in Europe and North America, Brazil intends to increase the production of ethanol, which is based on sugar cane, from annually 21 billion litres to 30 billion litres in the year 2010.

Soy production in Brazil is expanding as well. Apart from the use as forage crop, soy bean is suitable for biofuel production. Brazil is world’s second largest soy producer with 50 million tons a year. National soy oil consumption is estimated at 3.2 million tons, and exports should amount to 2.2 million tons in 2007.

 

Soy and sugar cane plantations cover already waste areas, which formerly were forested savannahs with a high biodiversity, called Cerrado. An intact Cerrado highland is of essential importance for the water balance of the natural lowland Pantanal floodplains. Deforestation and soil compaction lead to erosion and a change in the hydrological system. Pesticides and fertilizers are flushed out polluting the tributaries of the wetland. Experience shows that peasants do not benefit from soy and sugar cane production which is mainly a highly mechanized, export-orientated agro-industrial model. "There should be no soy and sugar cane production for biofuels in the catchment of the Pantanal," says Marion Hammerl, President of GNF. "Due to the destruction of sensitive ecosystems biofuels from the Pantanal region are no solution for solving the energy crisis in Europe and North America."

Covering a region of 140,000 sq. km, the Pantanal is world''s largest wetland. Greece for example measures 132,000 sq. km. During the rainy season, the Paraguay River and its tributaries inundate large areas. In the dry season the region turns into a savannah shimmering with heat. Green vegetation then can be found only in lake regions and river plains. Around 90 % of the area belong to the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.

 

The biodiversity of the region is extremely rich. 260 species of fish and 650 species of birds live there. Spectacled Cayman, Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthus), Rhea (R. americana), Giant River Otter (Ptenorura brasiliensis), Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), and Jaguar (Panthera onca palustris) are native in the Pantanal.

 

ECOTROPICA is the partner in the international network Living Lakes, which is coordinated by GNF. ECOTROPICA manages South America’s largest protected area owned by a nature conservation organisation. The area as well as the bordering Pantanal National Park were declared a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Hyacinth Macaw