What is the Largest Wetland in the World?

The Pantanal is the world’s largest subtropical wetland. Spanning Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay it covers over 70,000 square miles (180,000 sq km). It has a number of tributaries that join to form two major rivers; the Rio Paraguai and Rio Paraná. These rivers are both navigable over much of their length making them important water routes for trade and travel.

The Pantanal region is home to half the species in Brazil. There are caiman (small alligators) living there as well as jaguars, giant anteaters, maned wolves, ocelots, marsh deer, howler monkeys, tapirs (related to rhinos), capybara (the biggest rodent in the world), giant river otters, and jacarés (crocodiles).

There are several threats to the Pantanal: deforestation and farming, over fishing, hunting of native species for their meat or pelts, and water pollution. The environmental protection agency IBAMA is working towards protecting this valuable resource. However, the government of Brazil has not always made such efforts as it wants to develop the economy as well as protect the environment.

As well as being home to many native animals the Pantanal is also one of Brazil’s most important agricultural regions which makes it even more valuable despite its wetness. Cattle ranching is a major part of national economy there which brings with it problems along with benefits. For example, raising cattle for meat production has caused much deforestation to expand the land allotted. This is harmful to many species as well as affecting global warming due to less trees having to be cut down.

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