General Article Hydroelectric dams threaten Brazil’s mysterious Pantanal – one of the world’s great wetlands

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Lauren Crabb, Coventry University; Anna Laing, University of Sussex; Bronwen Whitney, Northumbria University, Newcastle, and Carlos Saito, University of Brasilia

The Pantanal in central South America may not be as globally famous as the Amazon rainforest, but it has the continent’s highest concentration of wildlife. Now, however, the region’s endangered plants and animals, along with its still undiscovered secrets, may be wiped out in return for cheap hydroelectricity.

Pantanal is flanked by Brazil’s highlands (brown). The Amazon rainforest lies to the north. NASA / P199

The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland and covers an area slightly larger than England. It lies mostly on a huge floodplain at the foot of Brazil’s southwestern highlands, but a fraction also spills over into Bolivia and Paraguay. In the wet season, from October to April, water washes down from those highlands bringing with it nutrients and fish and leaving most of the region u...

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