The Pantanal Complex, or simply Pantanal, is a biome consisting mainly of a steppe savanna, mostly flooded, with an area of 250,000 square kilometers and an average altitude of 100 meters. Its probable size is at 210,000 km².
It is located in the south of the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, which occupies 35% of the territory, and in the northwest of Mato Grosso do Sul, which occupies 65%, in addition to parts of northern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia (where it is called the Bolivian Chaco).
The Pantanal is considered the largest continuous floodplain in the world, with 140,000 km² in Brazilian territory. According to the SOS Pantanal Institute, of the total 195,000 km² considered the Pantanal, 151,000 km² are in Brazil, and the remaining 44,000 km² are divided between Bolivia and Paraguay. The Bolivian Pantanal is 31,898 km².
The region considered by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve is located in the Pantanal National Park region. Despite the name, there are a small number of wetlands in the Pantanal region.
The origin of the Pantanal is not, as was thought, the result of separation from the ocean millions of years ago. All geologists agree that there is no evidence of the presence of the sea there, and one of those who knows the region best, Fernando Flavio Marques de Almeida, says that it represents an area that was brought down by block failures during the Tertiary period. Sea animals also exist in the pantanal, forming what can be called an inland sea. The flooded area of the pantanal is due to the slow drainage of the slowly flowing waters, through the middle Paraguay region, in a place called Fecho dos Morros do Sul.
In 1537 and 1538, the Spaniard Juan Ayolas and his companion Domingos Martínez de Irala followed the Paraguay River and named the Gayva lagoon Puerto de los Reyes. Around 1542-1543, Álvaro Nunes Cabeza de Vaca (a Spaniard and adventurer) also passed through the place to go to Peru.
The Pantanal fauna is enourmous. Aout 656 species of birds have been catalogued. The most spectacular is the hyacinth macaw, an endangered species. There are also tuiuiús (the bird symbol of the Pantanal), toucans, parakeets, great egret, hummingbirds (the smallest weighing up to two grams), socós (a species of brown colored heron), jaçanãs, emus, seriemas, parrots, spoonbills, hawks, carcaras and curicacas.
More than 1,032 species of butterflies have been catalogued in the Pantanal. There are more than 124 species of mammals, the main ones being the jaguar (reaches 1.2 m in length, 0.85 cm in height and weighs up to 150 kg), capybara, wolverine, chamois deer, roe deer, maned deer, maned wolf, caiman, peccary, giant anteater, wild dog, tapir, sloth, giant otter, puma, armadillo, etc.
The region is also fish-rich, with 263 species of fish having already been catalogued: Some species found are: piranha (a carnivorous and extremely voracious fish), pacu, pintado, dourado, cachara, curimbatá, piraputanga, jaú and piau.
Ninety-three species of reptiles have been identified. Among them are the alligator (jacaré-do-pantanal and jacaré-coroa), snake (Jararaca), anaconda, boa constrictor, water snake, water snake and others), lizards (iguana, calango-verde) and chelonians (jabuti and terrapin).
The Pantanal vegetation is a mosaic of five distinct regions: Amazon Rainforest, Cerrado, Caatinga, Atlantic Forest, and Chaco (Paraguayan, Argentinean, and Bolivian). During the drought, the fields turn yellowish and the temperature constantly drops below 0 °C, and there is frost, influenced by the winds that come from the south of the continent.
The vegetation of the Pantanal is not homogenous and there is a different pattern of flora according to the soil and altitude. In the lower parts, the predominant vegetation is grass, which are natural pasture areas for cattle – cattle raising is the main economic activity in the Pantanal. The cerrado vegetation, with medium-sized trees interspersed with shrubs and low plants, appears at medium altitudes. A few meters above the floodable areas are the capões de bush, with larger trees such as angico, ipê, and aroeira.
At higher altitudes, the arid climate makes the landscape similar to that of the caatinga, with typical species such as the mandacaru, aquatic plants, piúvas (of the ipê family with pink and yellow flowers), palm trees, orchids, fig trees, and aroeira trees. The Pantanal has rich and varied vegetation, which includes the typical fauna of other Brazilian biomes such as the cerrado, the caatinga, and the Amazon region. The nutritious silt layer that remains on the ground after the floods allows for the development of a rich flora. In areas where floods dominate but are dry during the winter, vegetation such as the carandá palm and paranodal occurs.
During the drought, the fields are covered predominantly by grasses and cerrado vegetation. This vegetation is also present at the highest points, where no flooding occurs. On the even higher points, such as the peaks of the hills, there is vegetation similar to caatinga, with barracudas, gravatás and mandacarus. There is still the occurrence of Victoria Regia, a typical Amazonian plant. Among the few endemic species is the carandá, similar to the carnaúba.
Aquatic vegetation is fundamental to Pantanal life: immense areas are covered by batume, and floating plants such as aguapé and Salvinia. These plants are carried by the river waters and together form true green islands, which in the region are called cameltoes. There are also areas in the Pantanal with dense and shady forests. Around the higher riverbanks is the acuri palm tree, which forms a gallery forest with other trees, such as pau-de-novato, embaúba, jenipapo, and fig trees.
Pantanal Needs Your Help
In the past two years, Pantanal has experienced the hardest wildfires of its existence. The wildlife and plantlife, as well as the life of the people living nearby are endangered.
You may not know how important the Pantanal is to all of us, but it’s a good thing we have the internet. Halls in The Forest is not only an Entertainment website, it is a mission: we want to help save our forests! It is as simple as that, but change will not happen if we don’t work together.
I invite you to learn more about this incredible and crucial place here: SOS Pantanal.
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Have a magical day!