The Pantanal: Earthly Paradise


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Interview with Reinaldo Lourival (3:32)

Renaldo Lourival Interview

TITLE:  Pantanal Wetlands           
WITH:  Reinaldo Lourival, regional director of Conservation International.           

We are talking about the Pantanal.  The biggest wetland in the world.  It’s 140,000 square kilometers, ten times the everglades, and it’s located at the center of South America. So, what we are doing in the Pantanal area, we are trying to implement a conservation strategy that is based on the concept of the ecological corridors, or biodiversity corridors.  So we want to link the Pantanal to the surrounding ecosystems. That means that animals and plants would have the chance to exchange genetic material from a population that is in the upper part of the basin or the watershed, and they can change genes, and they can breed.

What’s going on is the Pantanal is a complex ecosystem and it comprises the watershed which is in the central plateau of Brazil and the big flood plain.  The big flood plain is still intact.  We’re talking about more than eighty percent intact.  But the surrounding areas are going through a process of fragmentation due to agricultural development, human encroachment, and road building and stuff like that.  So the idea is that we can connect those areas using rivers and watersheds as a means to keep the gene flow, genetic material exchange. 

It’s a very rich ecosystem.  It’s very productive.  So in the case of the Pantanal we have more than three thousand and five hundred species of plants.  We have three hundred species of fresh water fish.  We have 100 species of mammals.  Six hundred and fifty species of birds.  Because of productivity of the ecosystem you have a big abundance of fish, which brings you a big abundance of waterfowl, which then gives you abundance of reptiles.  So, you’re gonna find there the biggest densities of crocodilians in the world. So you have, sometimes you can find a pond where you find more than a thousand animals together.

it’s not only because of the size, but the complexity.  It links many different ecosystems in South America.  So, it’s a place where species can use to breed and, or they can use for migration.  So, we have a lot of birds that migrate from the northern hemisphere.  They migrate from the southern part of the continent.  Also to visit the Pantanal and use the productivity of their breeding purposes. 

We have a major threat that is mining on some of the areas on the plateau that brings quicksilver to the flood plain which is incorporated in the food chain.  We are talking about the development of transportation routes along the Pantanal. We are talking also about human development, which increases sewage, that goes to the flood plain.  And in term of these internal threats, in the Pantanal we have cattle ranching as a major economic activity.  And it has been sustainable for the last two hundred years.  But then, due to difficulties in terms of cattle ranch development, some of the farmers are introducing new grazing areas. They put the forests down and put new grass on top of it.  So it creates a huge grassland areas that simplifies the ecosystem.  It’s bad for biodiversity in general.