Marí­a Magdalena Arréllaga

Independent Visual Storyteller
Pantanal in Flames: The World's Largest Tropical Wetland Has Become an Inferno
Location: Rio de Janeiro
Nationality: Paraguayan / American
Biography: Maria is an independent documentary photographer, photojournalist and visual storyteller working on stories and projects related to social, political and environmental issues in Brazil and Latin America. She is currently finishing her Masters in... read on
Public Story
Pantanal in Flames: The World's Largest Tropical Wetland Has Become an Inferno
Copyright maria magdalena arréllaga 2021
Date of Work 08/15/20 - Ongoing
Updated 12/03/20
Since July, I have followed the wildfires in the Pantanal, documenting the effects of climate change, the fight to control wildfires and their impacts on the planet's largest tropical wetland. Two stories ran in September and October featuring some of this work in which I contributed with reporting and photography for The New York Times.

Brazil Fires Burn World's Largest Wetland at 'Unprecedented Scale' (The New York Times)

September 4, 2020
By Ernesto Londoño, Maria Magdalena Arréllaga and Letícia Casado

A record amount of the world’s largest tropical wetland has been lost to the fires sweeping Brazil this year, scientists said, devastating a delicate ecosystem that is one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet.The enormous fires — often set by ranchers and farmers to clear land, but exacerbated by unusually dry conditions in recent weeks — have engulfed more than 10 percent of the Brazilian wetlands, known as the Pantanal, exacting a toll scientists call “unprecedented.”The fires in the Pantanal, in southwest Brazil, raged across an estimated 7,861 square miles between January and August, according to an analysis conducted by NASA for The New York Times, based on a new system to track fires in real time using satellite data. That’s an area slightly larger than New Jersey.The previous record was in 2005, when approximately 4,608 square miles burned in the biome during the same period.And to the north, the fires in the Brazilian Amazon — many of them also deliberately set for commercial clearing — have been ruinous as well. The amount of Brazilian rainforest lost to fires in 2020 has been similar to the scale of the destruction last year, when the problem drew global condemnation and added to the strains between Brazil and its trading partners, particularly in Europe. (Cont...)

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The World’s Largest Tropical Wetland Has Become an Inferno (The New York Times)

October 13, 2020
By Catrin Einhorn, Maria Magdalena Arréllaga, Blacki Migliozzi and Scott Reinhard

This year, roughly a quarter of the vast Pantanal wetland in Brazil, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, has burned in wildfires worsened by climate change. What happens to a rich and unique biome when so much is destroyed?

The unprecedented fires in the wetland have attracted less attention than blazes in Australia, the Western United States and the Amazon, its celebrity sibling to the north. But while the Pantanal is not a global household name, tourists in the know flock there because it is home to exceptionally high concentrations of breathtaking wildlife: Jaguars, tapirs, endangered giant otters and bright blue hyacinth macaws. Like a vast tub, the wetland swells with water during the rainy season and empties out during the dry months. Fittingly, this rhythm has a name that evokes a beating heart: the flood pulse.

The wetland, which is larger than Greece and stretches over parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, also offers unseen gifts to a vast swath of South America by regulating the water cycle upon which life depends. Its countless swamps, lagoons and tributaries purify water and help prevent floods and droughts. They also store untold amounts of carbon, helping to stabilize the climate. (Cont...)

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Also by Marí­a Magdalena Arréllaga —


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