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Conference Paper

Pantanal: a large South American wetland at a crossroads


Junk,  Wolfgang J.
Working Group Tropical Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Junk, W. J., & Nunes de Cunha, C. (2005). Pantanal: a large South American wetland at a crossroads. Ecological Engineering, 24(4), 391-401.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-D9CB-0
The Pantanal, a large and still rather pristine wetland in the center of the South American continent, is becoming increasingly threatened by large development programs. Agroindustries and reservoirs for hydroelectric power generation in the catchment area modify discharge pattern and sediment load of the tributaries, plans for canalization of the Paraguay River (hidrovia) are putting in risk the natural flood regime of large areas inside the Pantanal, and attract industries with high potential for environmental pollution, economic pressure on the traditional cattle ranchers accelerates the transformation of natural vegetation into pasture, etc. These activities negatively affect habitat and species diversity and scenic beauty but also the hydrological buffer capacity of the Pantanal. The article summarizes the ecological conditions of the Pantanal, discusses commercial and non-commercial values of the area, describes constraints for the development of intensive agriculture and cattle ranching, and discusses development alternatives. Considering the low density of human population inside the Pantanal, it can be concluded that development pressure on the Pantanal arises mostly from pressure groups outside the area that will also mostly benefit from the economic return of the development projects. Low density of human population would still allow the application of economically viable and environmentally friendly development alternatives that maintain and sustainably manage one of the largest wetlands in the world.