World's Largest Tropical Wetlands Burn in Brazil

The Pantanal, a vast floodplain in South America, is the largest wetland in the world and has been on fire for months. The mosaic of grasslands, shrublands, forests, marshes and lakes covers an area as large as West Virginia and is one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet. It is home to thousands of species, including  rare and endangered jaguars, river otters, hyacinth macaws and giant armadillos.
The enormous fires — often set by ranchers and farmers to clear land, but exacerbated by unusually dry conditions — have engulfed more than 22 percent of the Brazilian wetlands, known as the Pantanal, exacting a toll scientists call “unprecedented.” 22 percent of the Brazilian wetlands also equates to about 13,000 square miles or 8.1 million acres.  Scientists who study the ecosystem worry that the fires are so severe that they may permanently alter the Pantanal

 

The unusually dry conditions have meant that many fires that were lit intentionally—often to maintain pastures—have been escaping and burning uncontrolled through Pantanal ecosystems. And once such fires have started to spread rapidly and widely, they can outpace the available infrastructure for firefighters to contain or stop them. 

These more severe droughts that we are facing are further confirmation that every year the climate crisis is getting worse. This was the most-preserved, natural biome in Brazil.

 

President Jair Bolsonaro has recognized the Pantanal fires as a federal emergency and allocated $2 million to fight the fires on top of the usual firefighting budget. But environmentalists blame Bolsonaro for giving a green light for "controlled" burns or illegal fires like these in the first place. He’s pushed development in the countryside and largely suspended fines for environmental violations like setting fires.

The rainy season is not expected to come until November, so many are concerned of what the weeks ahead may hold.

These fires have a dramatic affect on water cycles that supplies all communities and irrigates agriculture in the Amazon. Flames have incinerated endangered animal sanctuaries and farms across the wetland. Firefighters, scientists and even residents have evacuated injured jaguars, tapir and other species to receive medical care and rehabilitation before they can hopefully be released back into the wild. Aquatic reptiles such as caimans have also been strongly affected as their marsh habitat has dried up. 

 

Ranching and farming are common in the Pantanal, but many residents also depend on tourism generated by the jaguars, who have grown accustomed to people viewing them. These fires will not only push tourists away from funding these communities, but communities have had to evacuate areas that have since been left to burn. The blinding smoke has even been seen over 1,000 miles from the fires. 

 

At YaYa & Co., we see the need to save the wetland and preserve our Earth, so we are giving proceeds to rebuild this important ecosystem as well as artisans and families that live in the devastated area.

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