A new study published by Conservation International sounds an alarm for the Paraguay River Basin, which includes the Pantanal. Continued deforestation at the current rate would cause all of the Pantanal's original vegetation to disappear in 45 years, according to CI researchers in Brazil.
Overall, opening the region to more grazing and agriculture, including the transformation of native pasture to farmland, has destroyed almost 45 percent of the original vegetation in the Paraguay River Basin. The river basin covers approximately 600,000 square kilometers, 60 percent of it within Brazilian territory. It includes the Pantanal, which comprises 41 percent of the entire basin. The Pantanal is a Brazilian National Heritage site, a significant site of international relevance according to the RAMSAR Wetlands Areas Convention, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The CI scientists analyzed satellite images to compare the proportion of deforested areas with those that still have native vegetation. They concluded that agriculture, cattle grazing and coal mining are the major threats to the Paraguay River Basin, a significant hydrographical drainage of the South American continent.
Titled "Estimated Loss of Natural Area in the High Paraguay River Basin and the Brazilian Pantanal," the report produced by the Pantanal Program of CI-Brazil depicts a critical situation. As of 2004, it says, approximately 44 percent of the area's original vegetation had been altered, with some districts in the Paraguay River Basin losing more than 90 percent of their vegetation.
"It is extremely important to conserve the areas surrounding the Pantanal lowlands, because they are the headwaters of the rivers that make up the Pantanal," said Sandro Menezes, manager of CI-Brazil's Pantanal's Program. "These