It’s not just the West Coast of the United States that’s suffering from the damaging effects of fire this year. In South America’s Pantanal region, located mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, fire damage is twice as widespread as in California. Bordering Bolivia and Paraguay, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland, home to indigenous peoples and several rare and endangered species. While fires in this region are common, this year has been particularly bad.
So far, 22 percent of the floodplain has been destroyed by flames, and scientists are concerned that the blazes are negatively impacting the fragile ecosystem. The fires are exacerbated by the worst drought in the region in 47 years.
Although Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro officially banned setting fires in the Amazon and Pantanal for 120 days, according to Nature, the regulations have not been strictly enforced, the number of environmental inspectors have been reduced, and funding for fire prevention has been blocked. Climate scientists predict that by 2050, average temperatures in the Pantanal could increase by 10.5 percent, leading to a potential collapse of the area’s vegetation and complete transformation of the ecosystem.
In the Encontro das Águas State Park, over 83 percent of the land has been destroyed, displacing jaguars, capybaras, and alligators from their homes. Local teams have stepped in to save what animals they can, but the effects of the blaze will last long after the fires are extinguished.