The Fazenda Ipiranga near Pocone

Greater Rhea with chicks, graze over the fieldsHyacinth Macaws nest in nearby forest islands

From Cuiaba to the Pantanal, the first 100km of good paved road crosses a disturbed cerrado transition ecosystem, featuring examples of cerrado vegetation, gallery forests and a unique tall cerrado forest. The pavement stops just after Pocone, and the Transpantaneira dirt road starts. A different habitat, birds all over, from Greater Rheas to tiny Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrants, the pantanal is full of life and is hard to don't see a bird in any bush we put our binoculars on!

Since 1991, Brazilian and German researchers of the Pantanal Ecology Project (PEP [a cooperative effort between the Federal University of Mato Grosso, UFMT, and the Max-Planck-Institute of Limnology, MPIL]) have been studying the structures and functions of the various ecosystem types of the Pantanal.

This work focused on delivering a solid scientific database for proposing management concepts and conservation plans, including analysis of environmental impacts and their socio-economic effects. The interdisciplinary approach is based on the flood pulse concept (Junk et al. 1989), which uses the annual hydrological changes as the driving force for patterns and processes in floodplain ecosystems. Limnologists, plant ecologists, zoologists, and geographers cooperate in selected landscape units such as floodplain lakes, an inundation gradient, a bird breeding site and the catchments of tributaries to the Pantanal.

In the past 10 years, PEP has contributed more than 100 scientific publications on this issue. Scientific education is one important pillar for the sustainable transfer of acquired knowledge into society. In a training course at the UFMT set up by PEP in 1994, 150 students performed studies in wetland ecology to obtain their Ph.D., M.Sc., or B.Sc. degrees. During this time, laboratories and field stations were established to enhance scientific infrastructures. The Brazilian-German cooperation on the Pantanal has now become the intellectual nucleus for the establishment of the United Nations University – Pantanal Regional Environmental Program at the UFMT. Analyzing the effects of changes in the flooding regime in the Pantanal will form the focus of future cooperative research.

The Fazenda Ipiranga (Piuval Lodge) was a research base for this project because has nearly all habitats found in the whole floodplain. Some of us were fortunate to be part of this project and do our Masters thesis during this project.

The flood pulse determine which vegetation is going to survive and how will be the landscape in the pantanal. The northern edge suffers less impact of flooding and holds a pecualiar dry forest with sandy soil harboring an array of birds hardly found somewhere else along the Transpantaneira. Most noticeable is the nominate form of Black-bellied Antwren, the Brazilian endemics Chesnut-bellied Guan, Spot-backed Puffbird and Planalto Slaty Antshrike. The vegetation is represented by forest islands surrounded by Acuri palm trees, food source to world's largest parrot Hyacinth Macaw which can be seen whole year through without any difficulty, as well as Golden-collared Macaw, Blue-crowned, Monk & Golden-chevroned Parakeets, Turquoise-fronted & Orange-winged Amazons, Black-fronted Nunbird, Undulated Tinamou, Chaco Chachalaca, Savanna, Black-collared & Great Black Hawks. Dry forest specialties includes Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Black-bellied Antwren, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Spot-backed Puffbird, Red-crested Finch, Saffron-billed Sparrow, White-lined Tanager, Lineated Wodpecker just to name a few.

This is also the best place to see the pantanal in the flooding season (February to May) when aquatic vegetation blooms and the world's largest wetland shows up.

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