21 janeiro 2009

Pantanal ecosystem a wonderful world

Pantanal the world's largest flooded plain
The Pantanal is a tropical wetland in South America, mostly within the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, and also portions in Bolivia and Paraguay. It is an area consisting of a variety of floodplain sub-regions, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics; in fact, up to twelve of these hydrological ecosystems have been defined. In total the Pantanal covers between 140,000 km² to 195,000 square kilometers (75,000 sq mi), making it the largest wetland in the world.
Over 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing one of the world's most biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants. It is also dense in animal species. It is often overshadowed by the neighboring Amazon Rainforest, but is an equally important ecosystem.
The name "Pantanal" comes from the Portuguese word pântano meaning wetland, bog, swamp or marsh. By comparison, the Brazilian highlands are locally referred to as the planalto, plateau or, literally, high plain.

The vegetation of the Pantanal is often referred to as the "Pantanal complex" and is a mixture of plant communities typical of a variety of surrounding biome regions: these include moist tropical Amazonian rainforest plants, semi-arid woodland plants typical of northeast Brazil, Brazilian cerrado savanna plants and plants of the Chaco savannas of Bolivia and Paraguay. Forests usually occur at higher altitudes of the region, while grasslands cover the seasonally inundated areas. The key limiting factors for growth are inundation and, even more importantly, water-stress during the dry season. The Pantanal ecosystem is home to 3500 known plant species.

The Pantanal ecosystem is also thought to be home to 1000 bird species, 400 fish species (including the piranha), 300 mammalian species, and 480 reptile species.

The majority of the biomass of fish species in the Paraguay-Parana river system generally comprise of a few species whose mode of feeding is classed as "dentrivory". "Dentrivores" primarily ingest fine particles from sediments and plant surfaces. This is characteristic of fish living in South American flood-plains in general. Fish migration between river channels and flood-plain regions occurs seasonally. These fish have many adaptations that allow them to survive in the oxygen-depleted flood-plain waters.
In addition to the caiman, the following reptiles inhabit the Pantanal: the yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), the Gold tegu (Tupinambis teguixin), the red-footed tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria) and the Green Iguana (Iguana Iguana).

Among the rarest animals to inhabit the wetland of the Pantanal are the marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus) and the giant river otter (Pteroneura brasiliensis). Parts of the Pantanal are also home to the following endangered or threatened species: the Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhyncus hyacinthinus) (a bird endangered due smuggling), the crowned solitary eagle, the jaguar (Panthera onca), the Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), the Bush Dog (Speothos venaticus), the Giant Anteater, the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), the South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and the Yacare Caiman (Caiman yacare)

A portion of the Pantanal in Brazil has been protected as the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park. This 1,350 km² (520 sq mi) park was established in September 1981. It is located in the municipality of Poconé in the State of Mato Grosso, between the mouths of the Bahía de Sao Marcos and the Gurupi River.
This park has been designated a Ramsar Site of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention since May 24, 1993.

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