ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Physical, ecological and human dimensions of environmental change in Brazil's Pantanal wetland: Synthesis and research agenda


Abstract and Figures

The Pantanal is the world's largest freshwater wetland, located in the geographical centre of South America. It is relatively well conserved, and features unique landscapes, ecosystems, and traditional cultural practices, shaped by the dynamic interaction of climatological, hydrological, geological, ecological, and anthropogenic factors. Its ecological integrity is increasingly threatened by human activities, particularly, in the wider catchment area, for example, deforestation, agricultural intensification, and construction of hydropower plants, with implications for local people's livelihoods. We present a synthesis of current literature on physical, ecological, and human dimensions of environmental change in the wetland, outline key research gaps, and discuss environmental management implications. The literature review suggests that better integration of insights from multiple disciplines is needed and that environmental management could be improved through a better grounding in traditional practices and local perspectives. We conclude with four recommendations: First, future environmental change research should build more strongly on the positive example of a small number of case studies where traditional and local knowledge of the environment was put into a dialogue with scientific knowledge and techniques. Second, we recommend a more explicit consideration of longer temporal scales (>10 years) in environmental change research, making use of oral and written histories, as well as palaeoecological techniques, to understand system responses to different magnitudes of human and climatic pressures, and ultimately, to inform future adaptation activities. Third, we suggest that enhanced stakeholder participation in conceiving and implementing research projects in the Pantanal would strengthen the practical relevance of research in addressing environmental management challenges, livelihood needs, and advocacy processes. Fourth, we call for a more systemic and integrative perspective on environmental education, which encompasses engagement activities between researchers, policy-makers, and citizens, to foster environmental awareness, scientific literacy, and public participation.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Physical, ecological and human dimensions of environmental change in
Brazil's Pantanal wetland: Synthesis and research agenda
Christopher Schulz
, Bronwen S. Whitney
, Onélia Carmem Rossetto
, Lauren Crabb
Emiliano Castro de Oliveira
, Pedro Luiz Terra Lima
, Anna F. Laing
Luciana C. de Souza Fernandes
, Charlei Aparecido da Silva
, Valdir Adilson Steinke
Ercília Torres Steinke
, Carlos Hiroo Saito
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN, United Kingdom
Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST, United Kingdom
Department of Geography, Federal University ofMato Grosso (UFMT), Av. Fernando Corrêa da Costa, s/n°, Coxipó, Cuiabá, MT 78060-900, Brazil
Department of Botany, Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte, MG 31270-901, Brazil
Department of Management and Human Resources, Coventry University London, University House, 109-117 Middlesex Street, London E1 7JF, United Kingdom
Department of Marine Sciences, Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), Rua Doutor Carvalho de Mendonça, 144, Santos, SP 11070-102, Brazil
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616-8627, United States
Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Russell Building, Whiteknights Campus, PO Box 227, Reading RG6 6AB, United Kingdom
Department of Geography, University of Sussex, Sussex House, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9RH, United Kingdom
Faculty of Applied Sciences, State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Rua Pedro Zaccaria, 1300, Limeira, SP 13484-350, Brazil
Department of Geography, FederalUniversityof Grande Dourados (UFGD), Rodovia Dourados/Itahum, Km 12 - Unidade II, Dourados,MS 79804-970, Brazil
Department of Geography, University of Brasília (UnB), Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro, Asa Norte, Brasília, DF 70910-900, Brazil
Department of Ecology/Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Brasília (UnB), Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro, Asa Norte, Brasília, DF 70910-900, Brazil
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Main Building (1.18), Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, United Kingdom
Pantanal with long-term history of cli-
matic, physical geographical, and eco-
logical change
Need for integrated research on climate-
landscape dynamics and socio-
ecological systems
Opportunity for dialogue between sci-
entic and traditional ecological knowl-
Reconstructions of past environmental
change to inform adaptation to future
anthropogenic change
Recommendation to improve public
participation and environmental educa-
tion in and on Pantanal research
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 26 March 2019
Received in revised form 31 May 2019
The Pantanal is the world's largest freshwater wetland, located in the geographical centre of South America. It is
relatively well conserved, and features unique landscapes, ecosystems, and traditional cultural practices, shaped
Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (C. Schulz), (B.S. Whitney), (O.C. Rossetto), (D.M. Neves), (L. Crabb), (E.C. de Oliveira), (P.L. Terra Lima), (M. Afzal),
(A.F. Laing), (L.C. de Souza Fernandes), (C.A. da Silva), (V.A. Steinke), (E. Torres Steinke), (C.H. Saito).
0048-9697/© 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Science of the Total Environment
journal homepage:
Accepted 2 June 2019
Available online 5 June 2019
Editor: Sergi Sabater
by the dynamic interaction of climatological, hydrological, geological, ecological, and anthropogenic factors. Its
ecological integrity is increasingly threatened by human activities, particularly, in the wider catchment area,
for example,deforestation, agricultural intensication, and construction of hydropower plants, with implications
for local people's livelihoods. We present a synthesis of current literature on physical, ecological, and human di-
mensions of environmental change in the wetland, outline key research gaps, and discuss environmental man-
agement implications. The literature review suggests that better integration of insights from multiple
disciplines is needed and that environmentalmanagement could be improvedthrough a better grounding in tra-
ditional practices and local perspectives. We conclude with four recommendations: First, future environmental
change research should build more stronglyon the positive example of a smallnumber of case studies wheretra-
ditional and local knowledge of the environment was put into a dialogue with scientic knowledge and tech-
niques. Second, we recommend a more explicit consideration of longer temporal scales (N10 years) in
environmental change research, making use of oral and written histories, as well aspalaeoecological techniques,
to understand system responses to different magnitudes of human and climatic pressures, and ultimately, to in-
form future adaptationactivities. Third, we suggest that enhanced stakeholder participation in conceiving and
implementing research projects in the Pantanal would strengthen the practical relevance of research in address-
ing environmental management challenges, livelihood needs, and advocacy processes. Fourth, we call for a more
systemicand integrative perspectiveon environmentaleducation, which encompassesengagement activities be-
tween researchers, policy-makers, and citizens, to foster environmental awareness, scientic literacy, and public
© 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://
Environmental change
Climate-landscape dynamics
Environmental education
1. Introduction............................................................. 1012
2. ThephysicalenvironmentandecosystemchangeinthePantanal..................................... 1014
2.1. CurrentresearchonphysicalenvironmentalandecosystemchangeinthePantanal.......................... 1014
2.2. RemaininggapsinresearchonthephysicalenvironmentandecosystemsofthePantanal....................... 1015
2.3. Environmental management implications and a research agenda integrating landscapes, climate and ecosystems sciencein the Pantanal . 1016
3. Socio-environmentalchangeinthePantanal............................................... 1017
3.1. Currentresearchonsocio-environmentalchangeinthePantanal.................................. 1017
3.2. Remaininggapsinresearchonsocio-environmentalchangeinthePantanal............................. 1020
3.3. Environmentalmanagementimplicationsandaresearchagendafortheenvironmentalsocialsciences................. 1021
4. Integratingphysical,ecologicalandsocio-environmentalresearchonthePantanal:recommendations..................... 1022
Acknowledgements ............................................................ 1023
References................................................................. 1023
1. Introduction
The South American Pantanal is the world's largest freshwater wet-
land, located mostly in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato
Grosso do Sul (~80%), with minor shares in Bolivia (~19%) and
Paraguay (~1%) (Calheiros et al., 2012: 33) (see Fig. 1 below). It is
often described as a relativelypristine and intactnatural area thatserves
as an important biodiversity refuge within the South American con-
tinent (Assine, 2015;Junk and Nunes da Cunha, 2005;Junk et al.,
2006) and has been recognised as a Brazilian National Heritage Site
by the Brazilian Federal Constitution in 1988, and a World Heritage
Site by UNESCO in 2000. One of its dening features is the Pantanal's
specicooding regime, characterised by a ood pulse(Junk and
Nunes da Cunha, 2005), which propagates from north to south, due
to the inuence of the Amazonian rainfall regime on the northern
Paraguay River (Bergier et al., 2018;Hamilton et al., 2002;Oliveira
et al., 2018;Por, 1995). Floods then reach the southern Pantanal dur-
ing its dry sea son. This annual phenomenon shapes not only the ecol-
ogy and hydrology of the area, but also the cultural traditions of the
Pantaneiros, the people living in the Pantanal (Girard, 2012). This hy-
drological phenomenon is dened by annual and multi-annual cy-
cles of ooding which determine the extent of terrestrial and
aquatic habitats, enable the migration of sh and other aquatic spe-
cies, and inuence biogeochemical cycling on the Pantanal's ood-
plains. These processes, in turn, have implications for traditional
low density cattle ranching on the oodplains (Abreu et al., 2010)
and the seasonality of inland sheries (Alho and Reis, 2017).
The Pantanal is a complex mosaic of many different ecosystems,
which have been shaped by climatic, ecological, and anthropogenic fac-
tors, which are all closely interlinked (Pott et al., 2011). Located at the
Brazilian development frontier, the Pantanal has always been consid-
ered as remote and inaccessible. This particular environment, including
the Pantanal ood pulse, has shaped the subsistence lifestyle of the
Pantaneiros.ThePantaneiros are the population who live within the
Pantanal, and some have origins in indigenous groups in the region
(Chiaravalloti, 2019;Pacini, 2015;Rossetto and Girardi, 2015).Although
the vast majority are cattle ranchers, riverine communities also
form part of this group, as is sometimes overlooked or ignored
(Chiaravalloti, 2019;Da Silva and Silva, 1995), despite having existed
in the area already at the time of the rst European explorations in
the 16th century (Teles de Ávila et al., 2018). Their identity comes
from a close relationship to nature, their ecological knowledge, and
knowledge of ancestral practices, which inuence daily activities and
shape material and immaterial aspects of Pantaneiro culture (Dalla
Nora and Rossetto, 2015;Diegues, 2002;Rossetto, 2009, 2015). It is im-
portant to note that these are different to the migrant populationswho
located to the Pantanal under government incentives relatively recently
(Girard, 2012;Silva and Passos, 2018).
While the Pantaneiro population density continues to be low, human
activity from other groups, especially in the neighbouring uplands, has
the potential to cause signicant changes to the Pantanal's ecology
and hydrology. One example is the construction of a large number of
small hydroelectric power stations on its tributaries, which may affect
the ood pulse, water quality and disrupt sh migratory routes
1012 C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
(Calheiros et al., 2012;Coelho da Silva et al., 2019). Differentauthors dif-
fer with regards to their assessment in how far these impacts can be
mitigated through careful reservoir management, also considering the
variation in size among dams (Bergier, 2013;Fantin-Cruz et al., 2015;
Zeilhofer and de Moura, 2009), and further research is thus warranted
(Coelho daSilva et al., 2019;Silio-Calzada et al., 2017). Another example
are the high levels of mercury in rivers polluted by gold mining activi-
ties, which then accumulate in sh and other animals of the local food
chain, such as jaguars (May Júnior et al., 2018). The Pantaneiros have
seen their relationship with the local environment challenged by
these human activities that take place particularly in the upper and mid-
dle sections of the rivers that make up the catchment area (Bergier,
2013;Coelho da Silva et al., 2019).
The Pantanal has taken a backseat in national environmental policy-
making in the three countries of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay compared
to other biomes, namely the Amazon, the Andes and Chaco (Ioris et al.,
Fig. 1. Location and extent of the Pantanal wetland in SouthAmerica. The star in the Nhecolândia region depicts the Nhumirim Farm (see Section 2.2 for further discussion); Outlineof the
Pantanal based on Assine et al. (2015).
1013C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
2014). Nevertheless, a step forward was given in March 2018, during
the 8th World Water Forum, where representatives from Brazil,
Bolivia, and Paraguay signed a landmark tri-national declaration
through which the three countries are committed to develop coordi-
nated plans and strategies to achieve sustainable development within
the Pantanal (WWF, 2018). This renewed national and international at-
tention may lead to novel attempts to improve environmental conser-
vation and management in the Pantanal and neighbouring areas,
which are currently characterised by extensive anthropogenic environ-
mental change, but also have a long history of non-anthropogenic envi-
ronmental change, as we discuss below. There is a need then to
understand the current physical, ecological and social developments
and issues in the Pantanal from an integrated perspective to inform
In the present article, we review physical and ecological as well as
the human dimensions of environmental change in the Brazilian
Pantanal (past, present, and future), propose an agenda for future re-
search, and outline key environmental management implications of
existing and future research. This article was conceived at an interna-
tional academic workshop on environmental change in the Pantanal,
attended by Brazilian and UK-based researchers with a diverse variety
of disciplinary backgrounds. By synthesising existing research with a
discussion of research gaps and environmental management implica-
tions, we are hoping to spark conversations on suitable pathways for
improving environmental management and policy for the Pantanal in
the medium to long term. We recognise that this article can only repre-
sent one small element within much larger societal processes that make
up science-policy interfaces (van den Hove, 2007), and that its immedi-
ate readership will mostly be limited to the national and international
academic community. It is also clear that in practice, only a minority
of science-policy interfaces can be described as linear processes in
which policy-makers receiveor respond toscientic input (Wyborn
et al., 2017). Nevertheless, insights from academic discussions can even-
tually reach policy-makers or the general population, for example, via
personal interactions, joint participation in ofcial forums such as
river basin committees, or public engagement activities.
2. The physical environment and ecosystem change in the Pantanal
The Pantanal is a sedimentary basin that occupies an Andean
backbulge, where subsidence occurs due to tectonic activity associated
with the last building phases of the Andes around 2.5 million years
ago (Cohen et al., 2015;Ussami et al., 1999). The Pantanal is
135,000 km
and the Upper Paraguay Basin covers 356,000 km
its catchment area, the surrounding plateaus and hills, are included.
Due to the low topographical gradients, inltration and retention in
the sandy sediments that have eroded into the basin, the Pantanal
oods annually and is slow to drain, resulting in the unique and dy-
namic nature of the oodplains (Alho, 2005;Assine, 2015;Assine
et al., 2016;Hamilton, 2002). This section demonstrates that the vari-
ability in the ood pulse over multiple timescales has determined the
landscape evolution, ecology, and biogeography of the Pantanal since
its inception.
2.1. Current research on physical environmental and ecosystem change in
the Pantanal
The landscape of the Pantanal is dened by the annual ood pulse
caused by seasonal rainfall. The key sources of precipitation arecomplex
and spatially and temporally variable. Annual rainfall is linked to the an-
nual migration of the Low Level Jetthat brings monsoonal precipitation
that is strongly modulated by the Amazonian forest (Berbery and
Barros, 2002;Bergier et al., 2018). The Chaco depression, a low pressure
system located east of the Andes, is inuenced by north-south and
south-north atmospheric exchanges and by the performance of several
atmospheric systems in the formation of the climatic system (Tarifa,
1986). The Pantanal region isalso inuenced by the South Atlantic anti-
cyclone (SAA), whose high pressure predominates in the dry season
(austral autumn and winter), and by the Amazonian convection,
which regulates the rainy season (Sette, 2000;Zavattini, 1990). The
rainy season can also be inuenced by rainfall systems, the Intertropical
Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and the South Atlantic convergence zone
(SACZ) (Marengo et al., 2016a). Zavattini (1990) points out that, de-
pending on the cold frontal systems related to the ows of the polar
mass in the eastern part of the Andes, there may be drier or rainy
weather conditions.
The interaction of the aforementioned atmospheric systems, in asso-
ciation with the topography, phytogeography, hydrology and high solar
incidence of the Pantanal, results in climatic conditions that typify the
Pantanal subregions. Zavattini (1990, 2009) cites, as examples, the
high annual rainfall indices of the northern region, which vary between
1000 and 1700 mm, where there is considerable variability in thedistri-
bution of rainfall; and the lowest indices recorded in the center-south,
varying between 1000 and 1100 mm, a region where the interannual
variability is not very accentuated. The widespread ooding in the
Pantanal associated with these annual rains in the (austral) summer,
and its frequency, duration and amplitude interacts with the topogra-
phy of the landscape to shape spatial and temporal distribution of ter-
restrial and aquatic ecosystems. The inuence of climate and the ood
regime on landscape structure and distribution is best described at
macrohabitat scale (Junk et al., 2014, 2018a, 2018b;Nunes da Cunha
et al., 2015) and considerable advances in vegetation survey and map-
ping have produced macrohabitat classications that incorporate the
concept of the ood pulse within their denitions (Dubs, 1992;Junk
et al., 2018a). Classication of the diversity of Pantanal macrohabitats,
from fully aquatic to fully terrestrial, has provided a basis on which to
enable research into theinuence of the ood pulseon species' distribu-
tion and interaction, and build a platform for sustainable management
and conservation of the Pantanal.
Throughout the history of the Pantanal, however, there were signif-
icant changes to climate and the precipitation-driven ood regime
which have impacted the biogeography and landscape evolution of
the region. A proliferation of environmental reconstruction studies
have improved our understanding of past climate-landscape dynamics
in the Pantanal (Becker et al., 2018;Boin et al., 2019;Guerreiro et al.,
2018;Rasbold et al., 2019). Direct indicators of palaeoclimate are in-
ferred through cave deposits (Novello et al., 2017), and the majority of
past landscape studies are derived from microfossil (Becker et al.,
2018;Guerreiro et al., 2018;McGlue et al., 2012;Rasbold et al., 2019;
Whitney et al., 2011) and geochemical signatures (Fornace et al.,
2016;McGlue et al., 2017) in lake sediments, and relict geomorpholog-
ical features of past landscape dynamics (Assine and Soares, 2004).
Most studies indicate that at the height of the Last Glacial Period (ca.
21,000 years ago), when the earth's climate system was considerably
differentfrom the present, there were high magnitude variationsin cli-
mate, followed by a less variable period since the Younger Dryas period
(11,700 years ago) (Clapperton, 1993;Stute et al., 1995).
These past climate uctuations, specically precipitation, have
interacted in a complex and dynamic manner with the oodplain sys-
tems and controlled thedistribution of aquatic and dryland ecosystems.
Informationonhistoricalchangestotheood regime has been obtained
from the large oodplain lakes associated with the course of the
Paraguay River (McGlue et al., 2012;Power et al., 2016;Rasbold et al.,
2019;Whitney et al., 2011) and from the alluvial fan landscapes in the
higher, less ooded terrain of the Pantanal (Assine and Soares, 2004;
Guerreiro et al., 2018;McGlue et al., 2017). Vegetation and re recon-
structions from the large oodplain lake, Gaiva (Power et al., 2016;
Whitney et al., 2011) imply that reduced ooding during the late Pleis-
tocene was responsible for the higher abundance of dry land vegetation
in the Pantanal from 21,000 years ago until near the beginning of the
current global interglacial around 12,000 years ago. These interpreta-
tions were proposed by Assine and Soares (2004) who, using
1014 C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
geomorphological evidence of relict dune systems, determined that cli-
mate must have been drier during thelast global ice age. A strengthen-
ing monsoon through thetransition into the modern warm interglacial
(16,000 to 8000 years ago) is interpreted from reconstructions at Gaiva
(Metcalfe et al., 2014;Whitney et al., 2011).
In contrast, glacial-aged reconstructions from another oodplain
lake (Rasbold et al., 2019) demonstrate a complex picture of precipita-
tion change from the last glacial period until present, with alternating
wet and dry phases, and evidence of higher uvial activity in the glacial
period. There are limited long-term data for the Pantanal subregionsbe-
yond the large riverine lakes, but studies ofthe evolution of Nhecolândia
saline lakes also imply that there was higher uvial activity during the
last glacial period, linked to increased monsoon strength (Guerreiro
et al., 2018). Taken together with precipitation inferred from cave de-
posits (Novello et al., 2017), these data show higher glacial-aged precip-
itation and a complex interaction between monsoon strength, river
activity and lake dynamics. Some of these data from lake reconstruc-
tions are contradictory (e.g., Metcalfe et al., 2014;Rasbold et al., 2019;
Whitney et al., 2011), which implies that the hydrological response to
changing precipitation in the Pantanal might have been spatially
There is strong evidence of lake lowstands (drought) and uctuating
water levels during the Holocene (the current global interglacial period)
(Fornace et al., 2016;McGlue et al., 2012) among the oodplain lakes
and lower precipitation inferred from speleothem records (Novello
et al., 2017). Evidence shows lacustrine (lake) system evolution in
Nhecolândia occurred during the Holocene (Assine et al., 2015;
Furquim et al., 2010;Guerreiro et al., 2018;McGlue et al., 2017)and
among the dry lake systems of the Pantanal do Miranda (Oliveira
et al., 2017). The multitude of small water bodies in the southern
Pantanalare relatively recent inorigin, and are controlled by a complex
interaction of topography, groundwater isolation or oods (McGlue
et al., 2017). The situation shows that precipitation variability in the
last few millennia was an important driver of landscape change in
Nhecolândia and the Pantanal do Miranda, but their evolution also dem-
onstrates a delicate balance between geology, geographic position and
groundwater dynamics (McGlue et al., 2017;Oliveira et al., 2017).
The millennial-scale studies of Pantanal dynamics show a climatic
inuence on the ood regime of the basin which have exerted a strong
control on the distribution and extent of terrestrial and aquatic habitats
through time (Guerreiro et al., 2018;McGlue et al., 2012;Whitney et al.,
2011). The variability in the ood regime, demonstrated over these lon-
ger timescales, is also manifested in decadal and annualchanges albeit,
to a lesser magnitude, as periods of higher ooding and drought have
inuenced the abundance and distribution of terrestrial and aquatic
habitats over a human lifespan (Hamilton, 2002). Crucially, the long-
term studies of Pantanal landscape change demonstrate that it is a
highly dynamic system that has responded to frequent and high magni-
tude climate change in the past.
2.2. Remaining gaps in research on the physical environment and ecosys-
tems of the Pantanal
The study of past climate and its dynamic relationship with ecosys-
tem function, biodiversity, hydrology and geomorphology has proven
crucial to understanding potential future impacts of climate change in
regions throughout the globe (e.g., MacDonald et al., 2008;Macklin
and Lewin, 2019;Willis et al., 2010). Past climate-landscape interac-
tions are most understudied in tropical regions, despite pendingclimate
risk of rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation in some of the
most vulnerable economies in the global south (IPCC, 2013). In the
Pantanal, landscape response to past high magnitude climate uctua-
tions can provide insights into how anthropogenic climate change will
inuence the future water security of the region, on which so many eco-
systems and livelihoods are dependent.
A synthesis of the studies about thepast climate-landscape dynam-
ics in the Pantanal, however, has not yet been attempted. This gap is
likely due to the sparse spatial and temporal coverage of the datasets,
the vast majority of which are derived from lake sediments, which
causes a bias in sampling to more permanently wet regions of the
Pantanal. Furthermore, there are contradictions inherent among the dif-
ferent types of datasets that are yet to be resolved. For example, recent
speleothem (cave deposits) studies have postulated a different climato-
logical history of the Pantanal (Novello et al., 2017)comparedtosome
lake records (e.g., Whitney et al., 2011). These inferred differences,
however, are potentially a consequence of the type of proxy used
given that climate is only one of many possible drivers of vegetation
and geomorphological changes recorded in lake sediments. These com-
plexities demonstrate a need to reconcile the disparate lines of evidence
for the region and/or quantify spatial variability in past hydrological
change. Additionally, past interactions between hydrology and climate
(and the ecosystems they support) have been shown to be linked to re-
gional tectonics, geomorphology and sedimentology in this vast basin
(Oliveira et al., 2018). More coordinated efforts in the calibration and
development of proxy methods, retrieval of records from a wider vari-
ety of deposits and different sub-regionsof the Pantanal, and the appli-
cation of modelling (such as the interaction between the landscape,
ood pulse and precipitation), will address most of these biases.
While the understanding of the longer term climate-landscape dy-
namics of the Pantanal is still rudimentary, the distribution of ood-
tolerant and dryland ecosystems are clearly delineated by the modern
ood regime and are well described in the literature (Alho, 2005;
Hamilton, 2002;Junk et al., 2006;Pott et al., 2011). However, we still
have little understanding of what controls biodiversity patterns across
these highly variable landscapes. In fact, the few studies that assessed
drivers of variation in landscape structure across climatic and edaphic
(soil conditions) gradients in the Pantanal restricted their analyses to
(i) macrohabitat classications, which use multiple groups of higher
plants (e.g., owering plants) and point to the importanceof hydrology,
res and human impacts for the differentiation of landscape units (Junk
et al., 2014, 2018a, 2018b;Nunes da Cunha et al., 2015); or (ii) assessed
plant community turnover in forests (seasonally dry, Neves et al., 2015;
riverine, Wittmann et al., 2017) and savannas (Bueno et al., 2018). Fur-
thermore, these community turnover studies classied the Pantanal as
an extension of the Cerrado biome, rather than a uniquely dynamic
landscape combining elements of both. Notwithstanding, an important
take-home message stemming from these studies is that distinct sets of
environmental variables (e.g., the combined and independent effects of
hydrology, climate, soils, topography) might shape the plant commu-
nity composition across forest and savanna landscapes, suggesting
that further studies are needed toexplore the potential drivers of spatial
and temporal variation in ecosystems, and the services they provide,
across the High Pantanal landscapes to low wetlands.
At present, the Pantanal comprises one of the largest gaps of biodi-
versity knowledge for plants (along with the Amazon) and inverte-
brates (along with the Amazon and Caatinga) in Brazil (Oliveira et al.,
2016). At the same time, the Pantanal also comprises the smallest gap
of biodiversity knowledge for charismatic and economically valuable
groups such as birds, mammals and shes (Junk et al., 2006).The largest
gap can be found across its central region (Oliveira et al., 2016), congru-
ent with overall distance from access routes (see star in Fig. 1). This re-
mote, under-sampled region comprises the alluvial fan of the Taquari
River, which is often subdivided into Paiaguás (upper fan) and
Nhecolândia (lower fan). Interestingly, one of the most collected areas
in the Pantanal is also in the middle of Nhecolândia - the Nhumirim
farm (Ferreira et al., 2017;Raizer et al., 2017). Sampling, however,
only covers a tiny area, and is often focused in a few taxonomic groups.
Therefore, we stress that these relatively oversampledareas found
across both Paiaguás and Nhecolândia could be used to guide priorities
for new biological inventories of unsampled taxonomic groups,
optimising resource use and signicantly expanding the knowledge
1015C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
about biodiversity. We further suggest that sites distant from access
routes, particularly those with poorly sampled environmental condi-
tions, should be preferential targets for future biodiversity surveys,
given the strong correlation between spatial variability in community
composition and environmental variation across the Pantanal (Neves
et al., 2015;Wittmann et al., 2017).
Among aquatic systems, sh diversity is best described, but there are
gaps also due to lack of sampling (Junk et al., 2006). Fish life cycles are
poorly described despite their value to the local economy (Junk et al.,
2006). N70% of the total amount of sh caught is made up of ve species
only: pacu (Piaractus mesopotamicus), pintado (Pseudoplatystoma
corruscans), piavuçu (Leporinus macrocephalus), dourado (Salminus
brasiliensis) and cachara (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum)(Catella, 2003).
The aquatic ecosystems are entirely dependent on the ood regime,
which inuences, for example, primary productivity, nutrient availabil-
ity, water quality, food webs, population dynamics, and (sub)annual
uctuations in these, and related variables (Alho, 2005;Hamilton,
2002). Nonetheless, as for terrestrial ecosystems, there is an overall
lack of studies aiming at assessing the impacts of such a ood regime
on multiple dimensions of sh diversity (e.g., from genetic to within-
population functional diversity). Furthermore, given the uctuations
of the hydrological regime as demonstrated from long-term studies
(see Section 2.1), there is no understanding of these effects on sh pop-
ulation variability, either from palaeo or historical reconstructions
(e.g., Lenders et al., 2016;Selbie et al., 2007). This lack of long-term
(i.e., centennial to millennial) sh population data limits understanding
of the impact of changes in the extent and magnitude of annual ooding
on aquatic ecosystems.
Of particular concern to sh populations are the frequency and mag-
nitude of massive sh kills linked to the spread of anoxic waters that
have been possibly caused by ooding of charred ground and linked
to the expansion of invasive re-tolerant grasses (i.e., Hamilton,
2002). This phenomenon, however, requires long-term historical data
on climate and sh populations to understand cause and possible man-
agement strategies. Participatory and integrative research on a limno-
logical phenomenon locally known as dequadahas shown that local
people may sometimes have a more advanced understanding of these
issues, for example, with regards to the duration of sh kills (Calheiros
et al., 2000), even if popular assumptions also benetfromtesting
with scientic methods. An improved understanding of the timing of
sh kills may then be employed in environmental management, for ex-
ample to regulate shing activities in specic geographical areas. In-
sights from studies based on sh catch data have also shown great
intra- and inter-annual variation in the geographical distribution of
sh populations within the wider Paraguay River Basin (Mateus et al.,
2004). Those authors attribute reduced sh catch rates to a complex
set of factors, including environmental degradation associated with ur-
banisation, shing restrictions, changes in market preferences, and
overshing. They particularly highlight that overshing is unlikely to
be the sole cause of reduced catches (see also Chiaravalloti, 2017), and
instead draw attention to the increased share of carnivorous species in
sh landings.
2.3. Environmental management implications and a research agenda inte-
grating landscapes, climate and ecosystems science in the Pantanal
The long-term studies reviewed above have demonstrated thatvar-
iations in rainfall patterns will change the magnitude and seasonal dis-
tribution of the ood pulse, which directly determines the relative
proportions of dryland and ooded terrain. Therefore, future climate
change will have an impact on the provisioning (e.g. shing, cattle
ranching), regulating (e.g. water quality, soil preservation, re fre-
quency, ood control), supporting (e.g. biodiversity, habitats of rare or
economically important taxa) and cultural (e.g. tourism) services of
both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of the Pantanal.
The study of lo ng-term climate-landscape dynamics is patchy a nd
underdeveloped in the Pantanal. Specic challenges requiring
greater interdisciplinarity are to rst generate better spatial cover-
age of environmental reconstructions across hydrological, topo-
graphical and geographical gradients and to calibrate proxy data so
that the geochemical, geomorphological and biotic data are linked
to better knowledge of the modern relationships between these
proxy signatures and environmental processes (McGlue et al.,
2011). To address geographical biases in the study of past environ-
mental change, there need to be more coordinated efforts in the re-
trieval of records from a wider variety of deposits and different
sub-regions of the Pantanal, and the application of modelling to pro-
vide insight into future change (such as the interaction between the
landscape, ood pulse and precipitation).
Reconstructions of past landscapes alone, however, are not sufcient
to understanding the past dynamism of the Pantanal; improved model
simulations of the monsoon over South America (Zhou and Lau,
1998), and rainfalltransmittance through the LLJ, areneeded to produce
accurate predictions of future climate scenarios for the Pantanal. Linked
to the study of modern hydrology, these predictions will inform the in-
uence of climate-landscape dynamics on water quality (e.g., dissolved
oxygen concentrations, salinity, eutrophication, suspended sediments),
the distribution and composition of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,
and the adaptability and resilience of the system, as demonstrated in
ecohydrological studies elsewhere in the globe (e.g., Brown, 2002;
Gillson and Willis, 2004). There are also signicant unknowns sur-
rounding the inuences on long-term changes to the strength, pathway
and seasonality of the SALLJ. These external (and transboundary) inu-
ences (Bergier et al., 2018) on the climatic source of the Pantanal ood-
waters require integrated water management strategies including
multiple neighbouring countries.
Landscape diversity in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and its
relationship to modern climatic, geographic and edaphic gradients
needs to be integrated to such a long-term temporal perspective in
order to improve overall predictions of the impacts of climate change
on ecosystem functioning. For instance, recent experiments brought
support for the relationship between biodiversity and the function-
ality of important ecosystem services, such as primary productivity
(Cadotte et al., 2008, 2009;Cadotte, 2013). These studies build
upon the assumption that lineages (of plants or animals) will often
conserve their ancestral ecological niches over evolutionary time, a
process known as phylogenetic niche conservatism. Thus, regions
with more distantly related lineages (higher phylogenetic diversity)
are more likely to exploit the full spectrum of available resources via
higher niche complementarity. If this relationship holds at large
scales in natural ecosystem such as the Pantanal, understanding the
impact of biodiversity loss due to changes in the physical environ-
ment is imperative, given predictions of increased climate extremes
all over the globe. Thus, here we argue that one of the greatest chal-
lenges in ecology and ecosystems science today is understanding
how dynamic landscapes affect ecosystem services, ecosystem ser-
vices' resilience to change (Lavergne et al., 2013) and, therefore,
how ecosystem services respond to such change.
Spatial modelling of dynamic interactions between landscape fea-
tures, ecosystem services and resilience may also have direct environ-
mental management implications, where these give insights on
vulnerability, for example with regards to biodiversity conservation
and hydrological phenomena (Steinke and Saito, 2013). Environmental
changes are best observed at the macrohabitat level. Macrohabitats are
already described and classied, but data regarding their extent across
the Pantanal (e.g., georeferenced distribution maps) is still missing
and requires strong efforts. With maps, environmental services can be
better attributed spatially, and ecological changes resulting from
human-induced global change, regional climatic extreme events and
land-use change, can easily be detected, quantied and, if necessary,
1016 C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
Nonetheless, progress has been limited in part by challenges associ-
ated with integrating disparate datasets to model the geographic distri-
butions, functional traits, and phylogenetic relationships of multiple
lineages (Violle et al., 2014), which is core to understanding ecosystem
functions and the services they provide. We further argue that suchin-
tegration is of paramount relevance for conservation strategies predi-
cated on the protection of ecosystem services in the Pantanal wetland,
especially under future climate scenarios. However, we currently lack
not only comprehensive and standardised biodiversity datasets for the
Pantanal, but also a complete understanding of the factors that control
the distribution of biodiversity through its spatial and climatic gradients
(Section 2.1), even though important advances have been made with
regards to macrohabitat classication more broadly (Junk et al., 2014;
Nunes da Cunha et al., 2015;Junk et al., 2018a, 2018b). Predicting
climate-driven landscape shifts across the Pantanal wetland is, there-
fore, inherently uncertain.
Studies of environmental change show these delicate systems to
be highly sensitive to precipitation change, but also they are highly
responsive to anthropogenic impact. For instance, deforestation to
increase cattle ranching activities involves replacing natural pas-
tures with cultivated ones, which is changing the environment
(Paranhos Filho et al., 2014), leading to dessication due to the
changes in the local water cycle (i.e. humidity loss), especially in
Nhecolândia (Sakamoto et al., 2012). Deforestation for agribusiness
activities in the eastern uplands of the wider catchment area, as
well as in the more distant Amazon Basin may also contribute to a
decrease in rainfall in the Pantanal (Bergier et al., 2018). Further-
more, it decreases soil permeability and increases sediment trans-
port to the Pantanal basin, causing river avulsions and disruptions
to the ood pulse (Bergier, 2013). Additionally, the potential link be-
tween exotic grasses introduced for pasture and altered re regimes
has been highlighted (Williams and Baruch, 2000), although compe-
tition with aquatic macrophytes in the oodplain may limit their
spread in seasonally-ooded environments (Bao et al., 2019). Recent
studies have demonstrated the potential of less environmentally im-
pactful land use practices, such as the use of agroforestry systems to
stem soil degradation in the uplands (Bergier, 2013), certied or-
ganic, sustainable beef production, and traditional cattle ranching
practices to limit carbon emissions (Bergier et al., 2019)(seealso
Section 3.1). Historical data on the impacts of cattle ranching on
Pantanal ecosystems over the past centuries, however, are limited
and these observations could be based on shifted ecological base-
lines (Pauly, 1995), where past human impact has altered managers'
perceptions of what is natural. In addition to the development of sus-
tainable land-use practices, however, is the need for accurate predic-
tions of rainfall for the next century to enable a whole landscape
approach to managing the future security of Pantanal environmental
change and predict how climate change will interact with land-use
practices in the future.
3. Socio-environmental change in the Pantanal
Followingour overview and discussion of the literature on the phys-
ical environment and ecosystem change in the Pantanal, we now turn
our attention to the human dimensions associated with environmental
change in the Brazilian Pantanal. At the time of the last census, there
were 474,000 inhabitants in the 16 municipalities that make up the
Pantanal, of which 22.5% were living in rural areas (above the
Brazilian average of 15.4%) (IBGE, 2010). Major population centres
within the Pantanal are Corumbá in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul
(96,000 inhabitants), and Cáceres in the State of Mato Grosso (82,000
inhabitants), with the remainder of the Pantanal's population spread
across smaller towns, rural communities, and farms. In this section,
we rst review current socio-environmental research on the Pantanal
region, discuss remaining research gaps and needs, and outline poten-
tial implications for environmental management, policy, and research.
3.1. Current research on socio-environmental change in the Pantanal
The Pantanal has historicallyalways had a sparse population.Human
settlers arrived to the Pantanal area about 5000 years ago, likely belong-
ing to the Tupi-Guaraní (Arts et al., 2018), but it is possible that the area
was inhabited by other hunter-gatherer societies prior to their arrival
(Ab'Sáber, 1988). Following European colonization of the Pantanal
from the 16th century onwards (Schulz and Ioris, 2017), the population
then consisted of small riverine communities of subsistence shers,
large-scale low-intensitycattle ranching land owners andtheir workers,
as well as a small number of indigenous communities (Girard, 2012;
Rossetto and Girardi, 2015;Wantzen et al., 2008). Traditional liveli-
hoods were well adapted to the characteristic ood pulse hydrological
pattern of the Pantanal; for example, cattle numbers were such that
they could roam free grazing on the rich Pantanal oodplains during
dry season, and were moved to the much smaller patches of dry upland
during rainy seasons (Abreu et al., 2010;Girard, 2012). The Pantaneiros
also hold signicant local ecological knowledge, for example regarding
edible and medicinal wild plants (Bortolotto et al., 2015;Ximenes de
Melo et al., 2015), as well as the climate and oodplain dynamics (e.g.
Calheiros et al., 2000;Da Silva et al., 2014;Girard and de Vargas,
2008). Fishing, too, is an ancient activity in the area, having been prac-
ticed by indigenous people already at the time of European exploration
in the 16th century (Teles de Ávila et al., 2018).
Livelihood strategies and socio-economic relations in the Pantanal
have undergone signicant changes in the last few decades, as well as
in the recent past, which poses novel environmental management chal-
lenges and may also lead to new socio-environmental conicts. While
traditional livelihood strategies are still practiced to some extent,
there has been a strong overall decline in such cultural practices, with
an associated loss of traditional and local ecological knowledge
(Girard, 2012;Wantzen et al., 2008). This is signicant, not least, be-
cause traditional knowledge enjoys a special legal status in Brazil, with
regulations aiming to document and ofcially register it, and this way,
safeguard Brazil's cultural heritage and prevent misappropriation by ex-
ternal commercial entities (Costa Eloy et al., 2014;Menuchi et al., 2016).
The loss of traditional and local ecological knowledge is particularly
noteworthy during integration of cattle ranching into modern agribusi-
ness systems. Traditional Pantaneiro ranchers have a specialised skillset
and advanced knowledge about adapting cattle management to the sea-
sonally ooded environment of the Pantanal (Abreu et al., 2010), which
is increasingly being lost due to several factors (Ribeiro Lacerda and da
Costa Lima, 2015). One issue that constrains traditional ranchers is their
comparative lack of economic competitiveness, especially in relation to
the technologically advanced ranchers of the neighbouring uplands
(Wantzen et al., 2008). This has led many traditional ranchers to move
to different professions (Ribeiro Lacerda and da Costa Lima, 2015). For
example, a recent study conducted in the Pantanal town of Poconé
found that the entire hospitality sector there is run by former traditional
cattle ranchers (Oliveira Rabelo et al., 2017).
Nevertheless, more recent research has also highlighted the poten-
tial contribution of local knowledge and traditional practices to the con-
servation of the Pantanal and the global economy (Bergier et al., 2019;
Guerreiro et al., 2019). This createsavenues for multi-stakeholder initia-
tives across geographical scales. For example, the Nhecolândia soda
lakes in the Pantanal have been found to be carbon sinks. Maintaining
these unusual environments then has important consequences for cli-
mate change mitigation, which opens the potential for Payment for Eco-
system Services (see also Section 3.3). In addition, local knowledge of
Pantaneiro ranchers could help develop practices that would allow for
organic beef production and certication. The traditional method of
low-intensity cattle ranching has the potential to be carbon neutral in
the oodplains of the Pantanal. This is, because biomass that cattle
graze would otherwise decompose during the ooding phase, and the
cattle carbon-recycle biomass for other species. Therefore the practices
of Pantaneiro cattle ranching could be certied as carbon neutral, a
1017C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
potential niche market and conservation technique(Bergier et al., 2019;
Guerreiro et al., 2019).
Low-intensity cattle ranching is thus mostly considered to be an en-
vironmentally sustainable land use (Eaton et al., 2011;Junk and Nunes
da Cunha, 2005), but concerns arise about the ecological impact of the
increasing intensication of both cattle ranching and soybean produc-
tion in the Pantanal due to technological advances in adapting to the
ood pulse (Rossetto and Girardi, 2012). As can be seen in Table 1,
N1,000,000 ha of soybean plantations were added to the Pantanal's mu-
nicipalities between 2013 and 2017, even if the seasonal ood regime
and comparatively poor soils have prevented more extensive land
cover conversion. This intensication of landuse has seen the introduc-
tion of exotic pasture grass, the use of agrochemicals to clear pastures
(Rossetto, 2004), as well as deforestation activities (Saito and
Azevedo, 2017), as noted in Section 2.3. Some scholars have also pointed
out the unequitable power relations between wealthy ranchers and
their impoverished workers, whichare based on economic exploitation,
a problem that extends to traditional and modern cattle ranching prac-
tices alike (Ioris, 2012).
The Pantanal is also affected by intensive farming practices in the
neighbouring uplands (probably more so than through farming inside
the Pantanal), for example through pollution of its rivers with pesticides
and fertiliser runoff from elds, with associated ecological and public
health impacts (Campos de Magalhães et al., 2016;Ide et al., 2012;
Miranda et al., 2008). Another socio-environmental issue that is caused
by unsustainable farming practices, including deforestation and bank
erosion in the uplands, is the sedimentation of rivers (Lisbôa Gazolla
and Gonçalves, 2017). This can lead to navigational and other hazards,
divert rivers from their original channel, and impact on key ecosystem
services such as nutrient cycling and provision of sh habitat (Bergier,
2013). The environmental consequences of intensive farming have
even led to the displacement of somelocal communities in thePantanal,
where avulsions caused the permanentooding of land, including about
180 farms and the homes of about 1000 families in the Upper Taquari
Basin (Assine et al., 2016;Ide et al., 2012). While Assine et al. (2016)
clarify that such shifting of avulsive rivers is a natural geomorphological
phenomenon caused by depositional mechanisms in uvial megafans, it
can be accelerated by cattle ranching and farming in the upper catch-
ment area, as noted in Section 2.3.
A further indirect driver of environmental change has been a land
reform implemented under the National Programme of Agrarian Re-
form in 1985, in which large farms were transformed into smaller
rural properties denominated as rural settlements(Rossetto and
Girardi, 2012). These reforms were made without consideration of
socio-environmental implications and the particular ecological con-
ditions in the Pantanal. Traditional labour relations and social
identities were disrupted; the new rural settlements were unable
to provide basic necessities to local peasant families; and they were
dependent on scarce and inadequate subsidies (provided via a Set-
tlement Development Plan, PDA). Consequently, most areas were
abandoned, that is, the agrarian reform did not accomplish its objec-
tives. The Pantaneiros who left these rural areas and settled in urban
centres were often faced with precarious living conditions and a lack
of skills suited to urban living, thus challenging and shifting their
identities (Ribeiro Lacerda, 2017;Ribeiro Lacerda and da Costa
Lima, 2015;Rossetto and Girardi, 2015).
Another human driver of environmental change is the signicant in-
crease of tourism in the Pantanal, which has developed into an impor-
tant economic sector (Arts et al., 2018;da Silva Moraes, 2015;Silva de
Oliveira and Marques, 2016). In the past, the Pantanal was primarily
popular with Brazilian tourists for recreational shing. More recently,
it has also become a popular attraction for foreign ecotourists who
visit the Pantanal for birdwatching and jaguar spotting, among others
(Castro Pivatto et al., 2007;Tortato and Izzo, 2017). Tourism in the re-
gion has been said to have some controversial effects, both from a social
and environmental perspective (Arts et al., 2018;Girard and de Vargas,
2008;Surubi Fernandes and Maluf-Souza, 2013). For example, tourism
companies are sometimes accused of monopolising economic benets
from tourism by providing fully organised tours in which no supplies
are bought locally. New conicts may also emerge where some commu-
nity members earn an income in the hospitality sector, and others con-
tinue with a subsistence livelihood. Tourism has also been associated
with child sexual exploitation and adult prostitution in regional
towns, although no conclusive evidence on the topic exists (Pereira
Vargas and Cavero Gonzáles, 2016;Surubi Fernandes and Maluf-
Souza, 2013).
There is also continuing discontent about the competition between
local subsistence shers and shing tourists who are both blamed for
sh decline in the Pantanal (da Silva Moraes, 2015; see Fig. 2), even if
the actual causes of sh decline are still poorly understood and impacts
of shing might be overstated (Chiaravalloti, 2017;Mateus et al., 2004).
Fig. 2 shows that sh catch rates have declined considerably since the
1990s. The latest data indicates an annualtotal catch of378 t in the en-
tire Upper Paraguay River Basin of Mato Grosso do Sul, of which about
50% each was caught by professional and recreational shers (Catella
et al., 2017). Within the basin, most sh was caught in the Paraguay
River (46%) and Miranda River (35.6%). Professional shers typically
spend 4 to 6 days on a shing trip, with an average catch of 6.5 to
11.62 kg/day. These authors also nd that numbers of recreational sh-
ers have more than halved since the 1990s, reducing the share of recre-
ational shing in the total amount of sh caught. Yet it is important to
recognise the inherent limitations to this type of data, given that much
Table 1
Area (ha) of new soybean plantationsin the Brazilian Pantanal 20132017; () no data available; Source: IBGE, available online:
Municipalities 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Total
Barão de Melgaço MT ()()()()()()
Cáceres MT 3570 4150 4722 5517 6085 24,044
Itiquira MT 210,000 177,325 180,000 180,000 150,760 898,085
Lambari D'Oeste MT ()()()() 940 940
Nossa Senhora do Livramento MT 0 300 1700 1950 1950 5900
Poconé MT 1035 2420 5302 7130 8450 24,337
Santo Antônio do Leverger MT 20,821 21,732 22,950 22,860 18,000 106,363
Aquidauana MS ()70 ()80 () 150
Bodoquena MS 1020 450 1180 960 2540 6150
Corumbá MS () 970 () 1450 910 3330
Coxim MS 10,800 10,660 10,800 11,000 11,000 54,260
Ladário MS ()()()()()()
Miranda MS 880 1780 5790 12,145 12,611 33,206
Sonora MS 62,030 61,500 61,500 62,000 56,500 303,530
Porto Murtinho MS 1500 1450 2173 2670 2510 10,303
Rio Verde de Mato Grosso MS 7500 8500 10,500 12,000 16,000 54,500
Total 321,169 293,321 308,632 321,778 290,273 1,525,098
1018 C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
sh trade occurs informally or without intermediaries (Mateus et al.,
2004;Rossetto and Tocantins, 2015), and is thus not registered in statis-
tics compiled on the basis of ofcial inspections (Catella et al., 2017). In
the (northern) state of Mato Grosso, no equivalent system for capturing
shing data exists, although individual studies have revealed roughly
similar dynamics, with most sh being caught in the Cuiabá and
Paraguay Rivers (Mateus et al., 2004).
Fish decline might also possibly be related to a regional climatic phe-
nomenon known as friagem (cold front) that has been shown to kill
large numbers of sh as well (Tundisi et al., 2010), affecting local sher-
ies and the ecology of the Pantanal, with potential long-term repercus-
sions for livelihoods based on eco-tourism (Silva de Oliveira and
Marques, 2016). The decline in sh numbers has also led some local
shers to kill giant river otters (Pteronura brasiliensis), an endangered
species, which they believed to compete for scarce sh resources
(Saito, 2006), this representing another example of a socio-
environmental conict, which connects ecological, climatological, and
social aspects. Yet again, it is important to highlight that no conclusive
evidence on the matter exists, and that some authors have attributed
the reduction in sh landings to overly restrictive shing regulations,
rather than reduced availability of sh, among many other reasons
(Chiaravalloti, 2017;Mateus et al., 2004).
Another major anthropogenic driver of environmental change in the
Pantanal are the rapidly growing numbers of hydroelectric power sta-
tions in its tributaries, which affect the hydrological regime and repre-
sent physical barriers for aquatic biodiversity, including a wide variety
of migratory sh species (Alho and Reis, 2017;Calheiros et al., 2012;
Crabb et al., 2017;Junk and Nunes da Cunha, 2005). According to
Welcomme and Halls (2001), white sh species, which are very com-
mon in the Pantanal, are among the most impacted ones by dams, be-
cause their reproductive cycle is sensitive to ood patterns. Zeilhofer
and de Moura (2009) found that discharge of the Cuiabá River, one of
the two major northern afuents of the Pantanal, was reduced by 20%
at the beginning of the wet season and increased by an additional 1 m
during dry season, due to the construction of the large Manso Dam on
one of the tributaries of the Cuiabá River, in the upper catchment area.
The construction of dams has direct repercussions for the livelihoods
of local communities who depend on shing and the collection of
other natural resources, as mentioned earlier, but also, for example, on
nesting areas of shorebirds due to ooding during the dry season
(Junk et al., 2006). There have also been warnings about increasing cli-
mate instability in the Pantanal due to climate change (Marengo et al.,
2016b), which may have unknown impacts on the predicted operation
of these dams and also on the vulnerability of the biodiversity and tradi-
tional communities already affected by the hydroelectric dams.
The hydrological regime might also be affected by the construction
of aquatic transport infrastructure. The construction of a waterway on
the Paraguay River has been proposed, which would facilitate the
large-scale exportation of soybeans to world markets (Schulz et al.,
2017), but potentially go along with serious and irreversible socio-
ecological impacts on the Pantanal's ecosystems (Hamilton, 1999;
Junk and Nunes da Cunha, 2005) and further incentivise land use
change towards intensive soybean production. The proposed waterway
thus represents another example in which elite decision-makingin the
upper parts of the wider catchment area might affect politically less in-
uential Pantaneiros in the low-lying downstream areas. The general
population in the Upper Paraguay River Basin is divided regarding the
project's desirability, with a majority opposing it on environmental
grounds (Schulz et al., 2018).
Finally, legal scholars, environmental social scientists and others
have sought to understand the implications and shortcomings of (pro-
posed) laws and regulations for socio-environmental dynamics in the
Pantanal, which has been legally recognised as a Natural Heritage in
Brazil's Federal Constitution of 1988 (Dias Cunha, 2017). One basic
issue that affects legal initiatives is imprecise or lacking legal terminol-
ogy covering wetland areas, as opposed to, for example, forested areas
(Junk et al., 2014;Maltchik et al., 2018). This impedes the design of
effective laws for environmental protection in the Pantanal, as well
as other wetland areas of Brazil. Whereas forests enjoy some
(diminishing) legal protection under Brazil's Forest Code, including on
private property (Soares-Filho et al., 2014), it is less clear how these
laws may apply in the Pantanal, where about 95%of land is held in pri-
vate ownership (Arts et al., 2018) and ecological classication for the
purposes of legislation is not straightforward (Junk et al., 2018a;
Maltchik et al., 2018).
But even whereregulations explicitly targetenvironmental manage-
ment in the Pantanal, legal ambiguity may render them ineffective. For
example, Mato Grosso's state law no. 038 art. 62 (1995) states that:no
type of deforestation will be permitted in the Pantanal's oodplain, ex-
cept for subsistence agriculture and cleaning of native and articial pas-
tures(cited in Rossetto and Girardi, 2012: 142). Given that the term
cleaningis not further dened, this article may effectively accelerate
the replacement of native vegetation with exotic grass species
(Rossetto and Girardi, 2012), which in turn may cause ecological
Fig. 2. Fish catch rates of professional and recreational shers in the Upper Paraguay River Basin (Mato Grosso do Sul only), based on ofcial inspections by the environmental military
police of Mato Grosso do Sul within the Fishing Control System (Sistema de Controle da Pescade Mato Grosso do Sul, SCPESCA/MS). Source: Catella et al. (2017).
1019C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
problems and make the area more susceptible to re, and thus, further
deforestation (Alho, 2005;Leite et al., 2018;Power et al., 2016;but
see Bao et al., 2019). Such problems with legal loopholes are magnied,
where existing sustainable cattle ranching techniques (Bergier et al.,
2019) are not applied.
Mato Grosso's state law no. 8.830/2008 establishes that the manage-
ment of the Upper Paraguay River Basin should be based on the princi-
ples of environmental sustainability, economic and social development,
but fails to cover the large areas of the Pantanal located in the state of
Mato Grosso do Sul, and does not address socio-environmental issues
that originate in the neighbouring uplands (Dias Cunha, 2017). A
more recent legal proposal is the so-called Pantanal Law(no. 750/
2011), introduced to the Federal Senate by former governor of Mato
Grosso Blairo Maggi. Yet it has been criticised for being almost identical
to the existing law 8.830/2008 and thus offering little concrete guidance
for sound environmental management (Dias Cunha,2017). More gener-
ally, critics suggest that environmental management laws are often
undermined or weakened due to the strong inuence of the politically
powerful agribusiness sector in their formulation (de Souza and
Hugueney Irigaray, 2017;Saito and Azevedo, 2017). Thus a continuing
struggle between advocates of economic development and environ-
mental conservation (see also Schulz et al., 2018) creates an impasse
in developing appropriate legal structures.
3.2. Remaining gaps in research on socio-environmental change in the
Overall, existing research covers almost all relevant substantial di-
mensionsof socio-environmental change in the Pantanal, such as: agri-
cultural transformation and its socio-economic and cultural
implications (Bergier, 2013;Calheiros et al., 2012;Ioris, 2012;Ribeiro
Lacerda, 2017;Ribeiro Lacerda and da Costa Lima, 2015;Rossetto,
2004, 2009;Rossetto and Girardi, 2012;Wantzen et al., 2008); conicts
around shing (Alho and Reis, 2017;Chiaravalloti, 2017, 2019;da Silva
Moraes, 2015;Mateus et al., 2004;Rossetto and Tocantins, 2015;Teles
de Ávila et al., 2018) and tourism (Arts et al., 2018;Girard and de
Vargas, 2008;Oliveira Rabelo et al., 2017;Tortato and Izzo, 2017); tradi-
tional and local ecological knowledge (Abreu et al., 2010;Bortolotto
et al., 2015;Calheiros et al., 2000;Da Silva et al., 2014;Girard, 2012;
Ximenes de Melo et al., 2015); invasive species and biodiversity
(Calheiros et al., 2012;Junk et al., 2006;Mamede et al., 2017); social im-
plications of water infrastructure development, including dams and wa-
terways (Bergier, 2013;Calheiros et al., 2012;Crabb et al., 2017;
Hamilton, 1999;Junk and Nunes da Cunha, 2005;Schulz et al., 2017,
2018); implications of climate change and variability (Araujo et al.,
2018;Bergier et al., 2018, 2019;Da Silva et al., 2014;Ioris et al.,
2014); laws, regulations and politics of the Pantanal (de Souza and
Hugueney Irigaray, 2017;Dias Cunha, 2017;Duarte dos Santos et al.,
2014;Oliveira, 2002;Safford, 2010, 2012;Sanches Ross, 2006). Never-
theless, signicant research gaps remain. These are not as much about
novel topics of research, but rather aboutdeepening our existing knowl-
edge of processes of socio-environmentalchange and conict, as well as
about better understanding interlinkages between several factors.
First of all, while there is a relative wealth of individual qualitative
case studies investigating social, economic, and cultural dynamics in
the Pantanal, there is less research taking a quantitative methodological
approach. This is not least due to the absence of basic socio-economic
data (Junk and Nunes da Cunha, 2005), beyond the census data of the
Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE, 2010), which
covers only some variables of interest and is collected only every
10 years. As a consequence, much socio-economic research relies on an-
ecdotal evidence or smaller case studies, and it can be difcult to gener-
alise ndings, for example on the decline of traditional cattle ranching
culture in the Pantanal. Due to the lack of reliable data on social issues
within the Pantanal region, other sources of information, such as indi-
vidual media reports have the potential to inuence opinions of the
general public and local decision-makers, for example on the issue of
prostitution in the Pantanal, as highlighted earlier (Surubi Fernandes
and Maluf-Souza, 2013). Also, local popular opinion may remain un-
challenged by a lack of reliable data, for example, misperceptions
around the supposed problem of street children in the Pantanal town
of Corumbá, which may obscure other serious issues such as child ne-
glect (Oblak, 2012). Both law authorities and criminal gangs perceive
the Pantanal as an important location for illicit cross-border trade with
illegal drugs, rearms, and protected wildlife, another issue which is
(perhaps unsurprisingly) characterised by a lack of reliable data
(Duarte dos Santos et al., 2014;Presti et al., 2015).
Quantitative data is also lacking as input into environmental
planning as well as various types of socio-economic and socio-
environmental modelling methods, which could be combined with ec o-
logical or hydrological data in integrated approaches to connect human
systems with environmental indicators. Recent research has begun to
report on the interrelationships between economic indicators, cattle
ranching, and a changing climate (Araujo et al., 2018;Bergier et al.,
2019), but socio-environmental issues beyond cattle ranching are still
less well understood. There is also a considerable grey literature on en-
vironmental planning in the Pantanal, for example, a number of govern-
ment reports outlining environmental conservation and economic
development strategies (Oliveira, 2002), of which the Conservation
Plan for the Upper Paraguay Basin (PCBAP, in Portuguese), is likely the
most relevant one (Brazil, 1997). This report identied some of the
major environmental management challenges with regards to the
Pantanal, such as erosion or pollution of watercourses with sediments,
and sought to recommend appropriate economic development strate-
gies. In this sense, the report is considered a precursor to ecological-
economic zoning, which has been recommended for data-driven spatial
governance of the Pantanal (Sanches Ross, 2006). Yet as our review sug-
gests, many of the management challenges identied then continue to
exist today, and further efforts to address them are needed.
Related to the issue of lacking quantitative socio-economic data, is
the lack of spatially explicit socio-environmental data. Much research
treats the Pantanalas one spatial unit of analysis, despite signicant
ecological, social, economic, cultural, and legal differences between
the different regions of the Pantanal. For example, as noted above,
some laws may only extend to the Pantanal of Mato Grosso, but not of
Mato Grosso do Sul (Dias Cunha, 2017) or inhabitants of indigenous set-
tlementsmay have little in common with Pantaneiro cattle ranchers. In
comparison, the physical geography literature has put more emphasis
on identifying and classifying intra-Pantanal differences. Boin et al.
(2019) suggest that physical geography features may allow subdivision
of the Pantanal into 6 to 25 sub-regions; Miranda et al. (2018) discuss
the landscape complexity of the Pantanal based on vegetation heteroge-
neity and remote sensing data; and Assine et al. (2015) propose a sub-
division of the Pantanal and catchment area into fans and inter-fan
systems based on geomorphological characteristics. Yet no equivalent
research on complexity and diversity has been conducted from an envi-
ronmental social science perspective, for example addressing culturalor
socio-economic variability between different regions of the Pantanal,
even if institutional actors might in principle be aware of them. Thus,
it is necessary to recognise that socio-environmental systems within
the Pantanal are not homogenous, and more conscious consideration
should be given to the selection of an appropriate scale of analysis. Re-
lated to the issue of appropriate scales for socio-environmental re-
search, sometimes the administrative division of the Brazilian
Pantanal into two federal states may also be unhelpful. For example, re-
searchers from Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul may compete for
research grants, leading to fragmented research, where a more collabo-
rative approach would be more effective.
Many socio-environmental processes may also have geographical
links that could extend far beyond the Pantanal oodplain. For example,
the proposed waterway on the Paraguay River across the Pantanal is ul-
timately connected to demand for soybean in China and Europe (Schulz
1020 C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
et al., 2017). Few studies have sought to address transboundary man-
agement issues, taking into account similarities and differences be-
tween the Pantanal of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay (but see e.g. Ioris
et al., 2014). Deforestation and human-induced land use change in the
Amazon biome may threaten water security in the Pantanal (Bergier
et al., 2018). Many other issues are linked at a relatively smaller scale
to the neighbouring uplands within Brazil, such as pollution of rivers
with pesticides and fertiliser runoff (Campos de Magalhães et al.,
2016;Ide et al., 2012;Miranda et al., 2008), sediments from upland ero-
sion (Bergier, 2013;Godoy et al., 2002;Ide et al., 2012;Lisbôa Gazolla
and Gonçalves, 2017) or the impacts of hydropower dams (Bergier,
2013;Calheiros et al., 2012;Coelho da Silva et al., 2019), which may
all have socio-environmental implications. Thus, research on the
Pantanal does not necessarily have to be conducted within its borders.
Anothergap concerns better integration of ndings from various dis-
ciplines, as well as taking a more holistic approach towards socio-
environmental research. While cattle ranching in the Pantanal is now
relatively well explored from multiple perspectives (Abreu et al.,
2010;Araujo et al., 2018;Bergier et al., 2019), other topics still lack
such integration. For example, sh decline in the Pantanal is still often
interpreted as the simple result of overshing, despite emerging evi-
dence that it is the result of a complex set of factors, including the hy-
drological impacts of dams (Alho and Reis, 2017;Chiaravalloti, 2017).
Not least, the amount of sh caught depends on the economic dynamics
around recreational and commercial shing (Catella et al., 2017). More-
over, subsistence shing is an important part of traditional Pantaneiro
culture, yet cultural aspects of changing sh numbers are commonly
overlooked. An integrated perspective would also consider the complex
consequences of a decrease in sh populations, which may have impli-
cations for seed dispersal, and this way, vegetation and landscape pat-
terns (Correa et al., 2015).
There is also scope to better understand local perspectives and tradi-
tional ecological knowledge for example, regarding shers' knowledge
of sh species, habitats, and seasonal migratory trends, and to integrate
this knowledge with more conventional biological and ecological re-
search. An example of such integration of knowledge systems can be
found in a case study on local knowledge and perceptions of climate
change in relation to scientic climate scenarios (Da Silva et al., 2014).
Another example is research on the Pantanal's dequada phenomenon,
that is, periodic sh kills which occur as the result of reduced oxygen
and increased carbon dioxide contents following high levels of organic
decomposition processes during ood events, which are well under-
stood by local people living in the Pantanal (Calheiros et al., 2000), as
also mentioned in Section 2.2. The more general benets and risks asso-
ciated with the integration of insights from multiple knowledge systems
have been extensively documented in the literature (Berkes et al., 2000;
Persson et al., 2018;Puri, 2007;Robbins, 2003). Such integrated studies
may help to safeguardthe cultural heritage of traditional and indige-
nous populations in the faceof cultural assimilation into mainstream so-
cieties; they may serve as a short-cutfor the development of
conventional science, especially in newly emerging research elds;
they may improve communication and dialogue between scientists
and local partners, this way facilitating more effective environmental
management and conservation; and they may give insights on underly-
ing worldviews and cultural perspectives associated with specictradi-
tions and cultural practices (Schulz et al., 2019).
Yet, due to the uneven power dynamics between researchers and
researched, there is always the risk that traditional or local knowledge
will be incorrectly or selectively represented, based on the preferences
of conventional scientists. It may also be challenging to identify a pre-
cise, if any, boundary between traditional and more conventional scien-
tic knowledge (Löfmarck and Lidskog, 2017). In Brazil, there is also
strong local concern about biopiracy, that is, the use of traditional
knowledge on the country's genetic heritage for commercial applica-
tions without due compensation to traditional knowledge holders,
which is regulated by the national Law 13.123/2015 (Costa Eloy et al.,
2014;Menuchi et al., 2016). Yet the desire to document and promote
traditional knowledge via academic research is equally strong
(Campos, 2018;Tiriba and Fischer, 2015).
Finally, there is a need to better understand political processes and
dynamics shaping socio-environmental change in the Pantanal. Some
research has explored for example, the interests and lobbying power
of the agribusiness sector (Ioris, 2012;Safford, 2012), politicaldynamics
in local multi-stakeholder watershed institutions (Safford, 2010)orthe
opportunities of various stakeholder groups to participate in the formu-
lation of laws concerning the Pantanal (de Souza and Hugueney
Irigaray, 2017). Yet, there are also many obvious gaps in research on
the politics of environmental change and stakeholder analysis. For ex-
ample, no social science research has explored the motivations of polit-
ical decision-makers or nancial investors enabling the current
hydropower boom in the tributaries to the Pantanal, as well as the com-
plex decision-making networks of various actors involved in this more
generally. Another example for a research gap concernsthe social impli-
cations of safeguarding the Pantanal's biodiversity heritage. While there
is a general consensus among relevant stakeholders and the general
population that better environmental conservation is needed (Ioris,
2013), little research has explored how to implement it in practice,
and how to avoid negative social impacts on traditional Pantaneiro com-
munities (see e.g. Chiaravalloti, 2019;Chiaravalloti et al., 2017).
3.3. Environmental management implications and a research agenda for
the environmental social sciences
Addressing the above-mentioned research gaps to obtain a better
understanding of socio-environmental dynamics of change in the
Pantanal is the precondition for numerous follow-up activities, ranging
from better environmental planning and management to improved en-
vironmental education and subsequent research (see also Bergier et al.,
2019;Guerreiro et al., 2019). Generally, to achieve such impact beyond
academia, environmental social science research will need to produce
information that is relevant and timely, credible and authoritative, and
legitimate, that is, developed in a process that considers the perspec-
tives of all relevant actors (Cook et al., 2013).
First of all, environmental planners would benet from a better un-
derstanding of socio-environmental trends in the Pantanal and in
neighbouring regions where activities may have direct impacts on the
Pantanal's socio-ecological systems. This understanding could be used
for more targeted environmental management interventions and de-
sign of environmental legislation and regulations. Due to the current
lack of basic socio-environmental information, many environmental
management policies are based on widespread assumptions and hy-
potheses, but not scientic evidence, which may have adverse conse-
quences and unintended side effects. An example (noted in
Section 3.2) which illustrates this problem well are shing restrictions
imposed on subsistence shers in the Pantanal, which have led to signif-
icant hardships, despite lacking evidence that overshing is indeed the
primary cause of sh decline (Chiaravalloti, 2017). This is an ongoing
problem, as evidenced by the recent introduction of the Law no. 5.321
in Mato Grosso do Sul, which forbids any shing of the dourado
(Salminus brasiliensis) during the next ve years (Andrade, 2019). An-
other example could be the siting of dams, which have complex socio-
environmental impacts, yet are often not comprehensively assessed be-
fore a decision is taken.
On a more positive note,environmental policy-makers may also use
research ndings to inform the design of nancial incentives such as
Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programmes, which could com-
pensate land owners for environmentally benecial behaviour (Schulz
et al., 2015). Considering that the territory of the Pantanal is almost en-
tirely in private hands, PES schemes could be designedto reward plan-
tation of native vegetation or low impact cattle ranching. As Schulz et al.
(2015) note, PES schemes targeting the Pantanal would also need to be
implemented in the neighbouring uplands where many threats
1021C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
originate. For example, farmers could be rewarded for planting buffer
strips delimiting their elds to avoid sedimentation of rivers and water-
courses, possibly paid for by the hydropower sector, which benets
from lower sediment loads in rivers (Fu et al., 2014). Socio-
environmental research could facilitate the identication of appropriate
payment amounts and benecial management interventions.
Beyond enabling better top-down environmental management, lo-
cally grounded environmental social science research could also em-
power local people living in the Pantanal; there is no need to focus
exclusively on nancial incentives for environmental management.
For example, some researchers have suggested adapting policies to ad-
dress justice-related concerns via a climate justice capabilities approach
(e.g. Ioris et al., 2014), which would involve mapping vulnerabilities to
climate change, enhancing social recognition of marginalised groups,
improving distributional equity, and strengthening public participation
in environmental policy-making. Calheir os et al. (2000),too,callforpar-
ticipatory research methodologies to be implemented for successful
ecological research and the sustainable management of natural systems.
Findings could potentially be used as input for the work of multi-
stakeholder forums (such as river basin committees) as envisioned in
the Brazilian water governance system (Safford, 2010)ordialogical-
posing problem approaches, that is, multi-stakeholder processes
which serve an emancipatory and educational function while address-
ing a specic joint management problem (Saito, 2013). Such educa-
tional activities would benet from taking an integrative view of
environmental management problems and enhance scientic literacy,
which we suggest is needed not only in socio-environmental research
on the Pantanal, but also in engagement between scientists, stakeholder
groups, and wider society. Political analyses, for example, within a polit-
ical ecology framework, may alsohelp to understand locally viable man-
agement alternatives as opposed to centrally prescribed institutions and
processes, and this way, reduce conicts around water and other natu-
ral resources (Rodríguez-Labajos and Martínez-Alier, 2015). They may
also give insights on the barriers for improved environmental manage-
ment, where it emerges that improved knowledge integration and ex-
change is insufcient to address socio-environmental problems on the
ground. From a legal perspective, it would be desirable to investigate
the interactions, synergies, and conicts between the entirety of laws,
projects, and programmes that affect the Pantanal. This could be based
on network or matrix analysis and could lead to a more coordinated
and effective management system.
4. Integrating physical, ecological and socio-environmental research
on the Pantanal: recommendations
In this article, we sought to present the state of the art of research on
physical, ecological, and human dimensions of environmental change in
the Pantanal wetland, identifyrelevant research gaps, and explain their
implications for improving environmental management. Nevertheless,
it is also important to take a broader and more systemic perspective to-
wards the multiple processes that shape environmental change in the
Pantanal, and here we suggest a number of pathways for future integra-
tive research.
First of all, we suggestthat a better integration of scientic and local
ecological knowledge constitutes a promising way forward for research
on environmental change in the Pantanal. At present, there are mostly
parallel strands of research on climatic, ecological, and hydrological
change from natural sciences and social sciences perspectives (with a
few notable exceptions, see Calheiros et al., 2000;Da Silva et al., 2014;
Guerreiro et al., 2019). Yet, traditional or local ecological knowledge
may often be a valuable source of information that could guide scientic
research, and in this way, enhance its quality and efciency (Medeiros
Prado et al., 2013;Melo and Saito, 2013;Silvano and Valbo-Jørgensen,
2008), for example via cross-validation or ground-truthing. In the
Pantanal, subsistence shers are one example of a group that holds ex-
tensive knowledge on local biodiversity, hydrology, and ecological
processes (Chiaravalloti, 2017), but whose knowledge is only just be-
ginning to be appreciated by conventional scientists. NGOs working
within the Pantanal have started to address this issue: Ecologia e Ação
(ECOA) are one example of an NGO, which has been working to align
local ecological knowledge and biodiversity conservation (da Silva,
2012). Another example is the Jatobazinho School, run by the Acaia
PantanalInstitute, which gives children in remote areas of the Pantanal
access to education, and also aims to raise environmental awareness
(Porrio et al., 2014). However, it is also important to recognisethe lim-
itations and risks of relying on local NGOs only to deliver such synergies.
Not all projects are successful; and a weak civil society combined with a
lack of public accountability may mean that some local NGOs are cap-
tured by local elites, thus furthering elite interests primarily (Crabb,
2016). A more holistic approach to conservation, involving multiple
stakeholders, may therefore help to ensure more sustainable outcomes.
Local ecological knowledge holders may also support research by
collecting data, for example on species abundance and diversity,
which helps scientists but also creates a shared sense of ownership
and can be the basis for positive social change (Van Rijsoort and
Zhang, 2005). Not least, partnering withlocal Pantaneirosto conduct sci-
entic research would also establish a dialogue between scientists and
people living in the area, which could inform socially appropriate envi-
ronmental management interventions. These might also be based on
existing, relatively sustainable land use practices, such as rotational
grazing of native pastures (Eaton et al., 2011) or clearing of invasive
woody plants, which enables a greater diversity of habitats and ecosys-
tems in the Pantanal (Junk and Nunes da Cunha, 2012). These practices
have existed in the Pantanal over centuries and continue to exist, even if
signicant socio-environmental change is currently taking place.
Second, we recommend a better consideration of temporal scale in
integrative research on environmental change in the Pantanal, espe-
cially longer-term time frames covering periods beyond 10 years in
the past. As the world is beginning to experience profound anthropo-
genic environmental change, it would be highly desirable to understand
how the Pantanal's ecosystems have responded to human pressuresand
climate change in thepast, whichmay offer rare positive insights on the
adaptation capacity of natural systems and the degree to which past
management practices have shaped the modern environment. The in-
sights of palaeoecology would also be useful for ecologists, and dialogue
between palaeoecology and ecology is still surprisingly rare (Mercuri
and Florenzano, 2019), although recent investigations elsewhere in
South America have demonstrated the value of historical perspectives
in understanding the legacies of changing land use on ecosystem struc-
ture and function, and implications for what might be termed natural
(e.g., Loughlin et al., 2018;Rull et al., 2015). Yet, even making use of
local ecological knowledge or consulting people's memories about envi-
ronmental change since the times of their parents or grandparents
would already signicantly extend the time frames typically used for
ecological research. For example, older Pantaneiros may remember
how a severe drought in the 1960s affected landscapes and ecosystems.
A better understanding of the distant past (i.e. thousands of years) and
the more recent past (i.e. the last 100 years) would not only be an inter-
esting question for basic research. Such research may also help make
predictions for the future, which can then inform environmental
policy-making and management. For example, Lenders et al. (2016)
have shown how the historical collapse of salmon stocks in Europe dur-
ing the Middle Ages coincides with the expansion of watermill technol-
ogy, with direct management implications for the ecological restoration
of rivers and streams today.
The Pantanal would be a highly suitable geographical area for similar
interdisciplinary research on the past, given its history of strong climatic
and environmental variability. The absence of written sources prior to
the arrival of European settlers would present a challenge, however,
giving more importance to safeguarding orally held traditional knowl-
edge. Beyond using such knowledge for future projections, it would
also be interesting to understand how traditional sustainable land
1022 C. Schulz et al. / Science of the Total Environment 687 (2019) 10111027
management practices have been adapted to changing climates and en-
vironments in the past. Present environmental conditions may no lon-
ger match the original conditions in which these practices were
developed, yet they continue to be applied successfully, as the example
of traditional re management strategies of the Xavante Indians of
Northern Mato Grosso demonstrates (Melo and Saito, 2013). Such pos-
itive examples of successful adaptation to a changing environment are
sorely needed in the face of current and future anthropogenic climate
change. It would also be desirable to combine such analysis of specic
time frames with corresponding spatial analysis, leading to more sys-
tematic integrated spatial-temporal research.
Third, it is necessary to achieve better stakeholder participation in
research. At present, researchagendas are mostly shaped by researchers
themselves and/or their funders, but this rarely takes into account the
needs and priorities of local people living in the Pantanal, which may
differ signicantly (de Souza and Hugueney Irigaray, 2017). It would es-
pecially be necessary to consider the needs of poor and marginalised
local people in the Pantanal, given the power dynamics that have been