The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland area, a flat landscape, with gently sloping and meandering rivers. It is situated in South America, mostly within the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. There are also small portions in Bolivia and Paraguay. In total, the Pantanal covers about 150,000 square kilometers.
The Pantanal floods during the wet season, submerging over 80% of the area, thus nurturing the world's richest collection of aquatic plants. It is thought to be the world’s most dense flora and fauna ecosystem. It is often overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest, partly because of its proximity, but the Pantanal is just as vital and interesting a part of the neotropic.
The Pantanal is a huge gently sloped basin that receives runoff from the upland areas (the Planalta highlands) and slowly releases the water through a single drainage channel, the Paraguay River. This formation is a result of the large concave pre-Andean depression of the earth’s crust, related to the Andean orogeny of the Tertiary Era. It constitutes an enormous internal river delta, in which several rivers flowing from the surrounding plateau merge, depositing their sediments and erosion residues, which have been filling, throughout the years, the large depression area of the Pantanal.
The Pantanal is bounded by the Chiquitano dry forests to the west and northwest, by the Arid Chaco dry forests to the southwest, and the Humid Chaco to the south. The Cerrado savannas lie to the north, east, and southeast.
During the rainy season (December to May), the Pantanal water levels rise more than three meters. Just as annual floods on the Nile allow for fertile, arable land, the dramatic increase of water during the rainy season nourishes the producers of the Pantanal, which, in turn, nourishes all the other species as well.
This ecosystem is home to a known 3,500 species of plants, as well as over 650 birds, and 400 species of fish. The Pantanal is a natural home for the hyacinth macaw. Other species which inhabit the Pantanal include the jaguar, the alligator, the maned wolf, the giant otter, the giant armadillo, the capybara, and the Brazilian tapir.
JOURNEYS trips that include the Pantanal:
Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantanal