Wildfires Jeopardise Habitats of Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), a Flagship Species for the Conservation of the Brazilian Pantanal

Bruno Henrique dos Santos Ferreira, Maxwell da Rosa Oliveira, Julia Abrantes Rodrigues, Fernanda M. Fontoura, Neiva M.R. Guedes, Judit K. Szabo, Renata Libonati, Letícia Couto Garcia

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Changes in fire regimes can increase extinction risk of species with distribution restricted to fire-prone habitats. The extent of the area burnt in the Brazilian Pantanal reached a record high in 2020, resulting in an environmental catastrophe. This globally important wetland is the main area of occurrence of the Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus). Distribution modelling suggests that the macaw occupies areas, where its major food sources, the palms Attalea phalerata and Acrocomia aculeata are present and Sterculia apetala provides nesting hollows. To estimate the proportion of suitable habitat lost to fire over the years, we overlaid modelled distributions of the macaw and two plant species (Attalea phalerata and Sterculia apetala) with the extent of area burnt in the Pantanal in 2003–2020. We estimated the phenological predictability of the two food plants and evaluated the consequences of fire on the availability of these resources. Considering historical fire recurrence data, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinusSterculia apetala, and Attalea phalerata are predominantly present in areas with no or low annual fire occurrence. We found that over 25% of Hyacinth Macaw habitat had been affected by fire in 2020, which is about five times higher than the historical annual average. The length and seasonality of the fire season was confirmed by circular statistics, suggesting that the number of large fires increased in 2020 compared to the historical series. Consequently, in the catastrophic season of 2020, wildfires were much more extensive and occurred earlier in the year. We did not detect significant correlation between food availability and historical fire seasonality. Hence, it difficult to predict how changes in the temporal pattern of fires may affect resource availability for the macaw. Moreover, the macaw’s peak egg laying occurs in August and nestlings hatch around September, and habitat loss resulting from megafires can compromise the conservation of even large, flying species. This justifies adaptive fire management as an important conservation action to preserve suitable habitat for the Hyacinth Macaw.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number47
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    Number of pages14
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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