WWF Statement on Study Finding 17 Million Vertebrates Were Killed by the 2020 Wildfires in the Pantanal

In response to the study published today finding that 17 million vertebrates were killed by the 2020 wildfires in the Pantanal, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued the following statement from Sarah Davidson, director of water policy:

The impacts of the 2020 fires were not only felt in the Amazon but also had disastrous effects on the Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world. The Pantanal is a critical area for economic growth, freshwater resources and biodiversity. The Brazilian portion of the Pantanal has lost 74% of its surface water in the past 30 years due to changes in land use and the construction of dams. Native habitat is being cleared for agriculture at unprecedented rates, and when paired with rising temperatures and drought, it’s the perfect storm for wildfires.

The Pantanal is interwoven with the Chaco and Cerrado landscapes shared by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. Destruction of the Pantanal will have cascading impacts on the broader region, and the species that we lose in the Pantanal will ultimately affect the decline of global populations. This important new study shows us that human activities can disrupt entire ecosystems beyond points of return if we do not improve the ways we manage our land and rapidly cut carbon emissions.