The hook that Lourenço Pereira Leite throws into the Paraguay River draws fewer and fewer pintados, cacharas and pacus as the days go by. These native fish species sustained his family for many generations, but none of the skills he learned fishing in the Pantanal with his father and grandfather have helped him avoid the empty pesticide packaging that shows up in his traps instead of fish. “This has to be coming from upstream, because there are no large farms around here,” he says. His observation sums up the crossroads at which this Brazilian biome finds itself: only 0.01% of the vast Pantanal wilderness has been turned into soy farms, yet the wetland has become an enormous depository for the agrochemical residue washing down from farmland to the north on the high plains of Mato Grosso state. Growing international demand for soybean has seen farms encroach into preserved areas and pushed soybean fields closer to the springs that feed the Pantanal. Last year, the biome underwent a historic burn that affected 30% of the region and drew much attention in the international press — much like the 2019 fires in the Amazon did — focused on the inertia of the federal government in protecting its natural heritage. But in reality, the region has been suffering in silence for much longer. Pollutants travel downstream, threatening one of Brazil’s few natural regions still well-preserved from human activity. Lourenço Leite fishes in the municipality of Cáceres, in southwestern Mato Grosso, the gateway to…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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