The worst largest wetland region is experiencing its worst tragedy in decades. In 2020, almost 17 percent of the native vegetation in Brazil’s Pantanal biome has been destroyed by thousands of uncontrolled wildfires — an area bigger than the entire territory of Israel. Until Sunday, 14,500 fires had been recorded in the region this year alone — a 210-percent increase from 2019. The situation is so bad that the federal government has declared a state of emergency in the state of Mato Grosso.
The Pantanal region harbors over 2,000 plant species and 1,000 animal species — some of which are unique to the area. It is home to one of South America’s most important river basins and is a massive source of drinking water and humidity for animals and forests. “The region has an enormous capacity to absorb carbon‚ which makes it even more important in the context of climate change,” says Geraldo Damasceno Jr., a professor at the Biology Institute at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul.