Fires in Brazilian wetlands increase by 980%; extreme drought is expected

BRASILIA, (Reuters) – Fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands are up nearly ten-fold this year and have reached the highest level since 2020 when the biome experienced its worst blazes ever.

Satellite data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research showed that the number of fires across the Pantanal had increased by 980% compared to the same period last year. These figures are alarming as the region enters the most dangerous season for wildfires. This usually begins in July and peaks between August and September.

Vinicius Simgueiro, the territorial intelligence coordinator for the local NGO Instituto Centro de Vida, said that it was one of the worst start to the year in terms hot spots.

Jaguars and tapirs live in the Pantanal Wetlands, which are roughly 10 times larger than the Florida Everglades. They also share the wetlands with caimans and anacondas, as well as giant anteaters. Weak rains, since late last season, have caused the seasonal flooding to be disrupted. This has left more of the area vulnerable to fires.

Silgueiro stated that the increase in fires was alarming, even during the rainy season.

According to the National Institute of Meteorology of Brazil (INMET), he warned that the Pantanal will likely face another severe drought this year after a rainy season with rainfall 60% below average.

In November 2023, the El Nino phenomenon caused the rainy season to be delayed, which led to 4,134 fires, as opposed the historical average of only 584.

Brazil’s federal government and state governors from the Amazon and Pantanal regions signed a deal on Wednesday to combat wildfires. Mato Grosso do Sul has declared an emergency in the state that contains most of Brazil’s Pantanal.

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