The soda lakes of Nhecolândia: A conservation opportunity for the Pantanal wetlands

Renato L. Guerreiro, Ivan Bergier, Michael M. McGlue, Lucas V. Warren, Urbano Gomes Pinto de Abreu, Jônatas Abrahão, Mario L. Assine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The Pantanal is the most conserved biome in Brazil and among the last wild refuges in South America, but intensification of agriculture and other land use changes present challenges for protecting this exceptionally biodiverse wetland ecosystem. Recent studies have shed new light on the origins and biogeochemistry of a suite of >600 small saline-alkaline lakes in Nhecolândia, a floodplain setting located south of the Taquari River in south-central Pantanal. These soda lakes form a unique aquatic environment in Pantanal and nascent research on their geomicrobiology suggests that their biota may be analogous to early life, and extreme life in Earth's deep biosphere. We argue that the conservation of the soda lakes in the lower Nhecolândia region should be an important strategic component of any conservation plan that aims to mitigate the advance of unsustainable land-use change in the Pantanal. Soda lake conservation has important implications for the carbon cycle, as these landforms sequester carbon dioxide and transmit considerably lower concentrations of methane in comparison to macrophyte-rich freshwater lakes in the region. Further, minerals precipitated in the saline-alkaline lakes are leveraged for cattle consumption, and therefore the continued presence of the lakes is critical for allowing pantaneiro ranchers to pursue certified organic, sustainable beef production systems. Beyond protecting soda lakes and their surrounding forests (mata de cordilheiras) for food systems security, the conservation strategy would also allow further research of little studied extremophile biodiversity and biogeochemistry, with potential for biotechnological innovations attendant to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalPerspectives in Ecology and Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Associação Brasileira de Ciência Ecológica e Conservação


  • Alkaline
  • Ecosystem services
  • Extremophile
  • Saline
  • Sapropel
  • Wetland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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