Cerrado: Brazil's tropical woodland

By Jeremy Hance [Last update July 29, 2020]



Amazon | Mata Atlantica | Geography | Biodiversity | Forests | Deforestation | Threats | Conservation | News

FACTS ON THE CERRADO

Land Areas: From approximately 2,031,990 square kilometers originally to 438,910 square kilometers today.
Countries: Almost entirely in Brazil, though it extends a little into Paraguay and Bolivia.
Biodiversity: 10,400 species of plants, nearly half of which are endemic; 935 species of birds; 780 freshwater fish;113 amphibians; 180 reptiles; and almost 300 mammal species. In three insect orders surveyed: 14,425 species have been catalogued.
Extent of Habitat Cover: Just over 21 percent of the cerrado remains.
Habitat Loss Rate: 21,000 square kilometers of cerrado was destroyed annually between 2002 and 2008, twice the rate of the Amazon rainforest. Between 1984 and 2004, the cerrado ecosystem declined by 1.1 percent every year.
Causes of Habitat Loss: Mechanized soy farms, cattle ranches, and some other crops.

OVERVIEW: THE CERRADO

The cerrado is a vast tropical and subtropical biome covering more than 20 percent of Brazil, it includes a number of ecosystems from tall closed forests to marshlands to open grassland. The largest savannah in South America, the name of the ecosystem, cerrado, translates as 'closed', and the region was long-considered by Brazilians as essentially worthless land. That was until the 1960s when farmers from the US began conditioning the soil with the chemical lime, improving its quality and growing capacity, and thereby transforming the savannah into agricultural fields.

Now the cerrado is one of Brazil's most threatened ecosystems. Half of the ecosystem has been destroyed for mechanized soy farms and cattle ranches. Over the past decade, two million hectares of the cerrado vanished every year to agriculture and pasture. Conservationists predict the possibility of a complete eradication of the ecosystem by 2030.

Long ignored by conservationists and environmentalists the cerrado is home to a shocking number of species, even given comparisons to its biologically-rich neighbors: the Amazon and the nearly-vanished Atlantic Forest. Of the ecosystems' some 10,000 species of plant, nearly half are endemic to the cerrado. Nearly a thousand birds and three-hundred mammals have been recorded in the cerrado as well. For a wooded savannah ecosystem with a long dry season, the cerrado is extremely rich in life.

Researchers have also begun to recognize the cerrado's importance for Brazil's waterways, since the headwaters of many of the nation's rivers begin in this savannah. The ecosystem plays an important role in carbon-cycling. In some years, carbon emissions from the destruction of the cerrado can exceed those from the destruction of the Amazon.

POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE CERRADO

The cerrado lies almost entirely in Brazil, though a small extent reaches into northeastern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia.

The ecosystem covers a number of central Brazilian states including Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás Distrito Federal, and Tocantins; as well as western Minas Gerais and Bahia; southern Maranhão and Piauí; and small portions of São Paulo and Paraná.

ECOSYSTEMS OF THE CERRADO

The cerrado is tropical savannah characterized by the annual average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) to nearly 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). The dry colder season extends from May to October. The soil is mostly nutrient poor.

The cerrado biome is home to a variety of ecosystems, including dry forests, grasslands, wetlands, shrublands, savannah, gallery forests, and even wet forests.

Gallery forests are trees and vegetation that line rivers and other waterways in otherwise savannah-type landscapes.

Tapir. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

BIODIVERSITY PROFILE OF THE CERRADO

The cerrado is home to a surprising level of biodiversity, in fact some experts have stated that it is the most biologically rich savannah in the world. The region includes megafauna like jaguar, giant anteater, maned wolf, the greater rhea, and the giant armadillo, but the biggest stand-outs are the region's diverse plants and insects.

In total, researchers have found nearly 300 species of mammals, 780 fish, 300 amphibians and reptiles, and 935 species of bird in the cerrado region. In addition, over 14,000 species of insect have been identified from just three insect orders out of 32: Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies), and Isoptera (termites).

But the biggest biological stunner of the cerrado is its plant species: 4,400 of the cerrado's 10,000 species of plants are found no-where else in the world. Due to a long dry season, these plants have evolved remarkable resistance both to fire and drought.

The uniqueness of the cerrado's plant life—and the rampant destruction of the ecosystem—makes these species especially vulnerable to extinction. A recent study estimated that plant species in the cerrado are twice as likely to go extinct than plants in other Brazilian ecosystems, including the Amazon.

New species are still being found in the cerrado: in 2007 two new species of lizard were described by researchers and in 2008 researchers announced the discovery of 14 species new to science: 8 fish, 3 reptiles, a bird, and even a new mammal.

While new species are being discovered, others have gone extinct. The candango mouse (Juscelinomys candango) was first described in 1965, but hasn't been seen since losing all of its habitat to urban development and suburban sprawl in Brasilia.

Some largely endemic species of the cerrado include:

  • The dwarf tinamou (Taoniscus nanus) is a small bird endemic to the cerrado. It is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss.
  • The maned wolf's (Chrysocyon brachyurusrange) range is almost entirely found in the cerrado. Reddish in color this canid boasts long-legs likely for stalking and hunting in tall grasses. It is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List also due to habitat loss.
  • The cerrado boasts 26 species of the reptiles known as snake-lizards in the genus Amphisbaenidae. Underground dwellers, most Amphisbaenas are without limbs. Six of these snake-lizards are known only in the cerrado.
  • The white-winged nightjar (Eleothreptus candicans) is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. As their name implies nightjars are most active after dark or during twilight and early morning.
  • Americas' heaviest bird, the greater rhea (Rhea americana) haunts much of the cerrado. Males of this ostrich-like bird are the sole care takers of offspring. Like another megaufauna of the cerrado, the maned wolf, the greater rhea is considered Near Threatened.


CERRADO LOSS

The cerrado is disappearing twice as fast as the Amazon rainforest with 21,000 square kilometers (over 2 million hectares) of savannah destroyed annually between 2002 and 2008.

A 2007 Conservation International study found that by 1985, 27 percent of the cerrado was lost. In less than twenty years (2004) the percentage lost rose to 57. During that time the cerrado declined 1.1 percent every year, while the Brazilian Amazon declined by less than 0.5 percent per year over the past decade.

Annual deforestation in the cerrado

CURRENT THREATS TO THE CERRADO

While there are not numerous threats against the cerrado, the threats that remain are massive in terms of impact and habitat loss. Mechanized soy farming and livestock rearing have caused the loss of half of the cerrado, most of which has occurred in the last 50 years after an agricultural revolution in the 1960s when chemical lime was added to the nutrient-poor soils. Brazil's government pushed such development by constructing a new captial city, Brasilia, in the state of Goias; this included building highways and infrastructure that made shipping agricultural and livestock products easy and cheap. Today only 21 percent of the original cerrado remains.

In addition, the spread of soy and other crops (corn and rice) have indirectly impacted the Amazon rainforest: a boom in agriculture has pushed livestock from the cerrado into the Amazon's edges leading to continuing deforestation of the world's biggest rainforest.

PROTECTED AREAS IN THE CERRADO

To date approximately 7.5 percent of the cerrado is under protection.

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park: Located in the state of Goias, Brazil, Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park spreads over 655 square kilometers on some of Brazil's highest plateaus. Sporting large canyons, dramatic mountains, and stunning waterfalls, this protected area in the cerrado has been listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Emas National Park: Named after the greater rhea, Emas National Park is also a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Home to rhea, jaguar, giant anteater, maned wolf, and pumas, the park, which is dominated in part by termite mounds, lies in central western Brazil and covers 1,300 square kilometers.

Serra do Tombador Nature Preserve: This is a private reserve created by the Nature Conservancy and the Brazilian organization, O Boticario. Covering 89 square miles kilometers, the reserve is small compared to some of the National Parks but represents a non-government designated protected area. The Nature Conservancy hopes to establish a corridor between the Serra do Tombador Nature Preserve and Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park.

PHOTOS FROM THE CERRADO


Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Hyacinth Macaw

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Pair of Greater Rhea

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Jabiru stork

Chapada dos Guimaraes

Cleared cerrado


Jaguar (Panthera onca). Photo by Rhett A. Butler



This species of lizard of the genus Bachia is one of the new species discovered during the expedition. Although there are other species of the genus in the Cerrado (almost all discovered and described only recently), this new species has only been recorded in the Ecological Station. The absence of legs and the sharply pointed snout help in locomotion over the surface layer of sandy soil, predominating in all the Jalapao, formed by the natural erosion of the escarpments of the Serra Geral plateaus. Photos by Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues


Some of the recorded species are relatively rare and little known, like this small fat-tailed mouse opossum of the genus Thylamys, registered for the first time in the Jalapao. Although this species was described from a Cerrado enclave within the Caatinga region, recent surveys have shown that the range of this species is concentrated in the northern portion of the Cerrado savannas. Photo by Agustin Camacho


Other species such as this horned toad believed to be new to science of the genus Proceratophrys occupy very restricted areas. Protected areas like the EESGT are fundamental, because they shelter large populations of the species, reducing the threat of extinction from destruction of the habitats outside the reserves. Photo by Paula Hanna Valdujo.


This species of amphibian (Corythomantis greeningi) occurs mainly in the Caatinga region, with only scant recordings in the Cerrado.The discovery of this species in the EESGT is the first recorded for the Jalapao region. The secretions of its skin can cause irritation to the eyes and nose. Photo by Paula Hanna Valdujo



Top: Stenocercus quinarius lizard in Brazil (photo by Cristiano Nogueira). Bottom: Stenocercus squarrosus lizard in Serra das Confusões National Park, Brazil (photo by Andre Pessoa).

 

THE LATEST CERRADO NEWS FROM MONGABAY

Brazil farming co-op carves a sustainable path through agribusiness stronghold
- Coopcerrado, a farmer’s cooperative of 5,000 families, won the United Nations’ Equator Prize under the category of “New Nature Economies” due to its more than two decades of work in developing a farmer-to-farmer model of mutual support for training, commercializing and setting up organic and regenerative businesses in the Brazilian Cerrado.
- The Cerrado savanna, a biodiversity hotspot holding 5% of the world’s biodiversity is also among one of the most threatened, with almost half of the biome destroyed for agriculture and a process of desertification already underway, scientists say.
- To save the Cerrado, farmers and traditional extractivist communities have developed an expandable model of collective support in knowledge and resource-sharing while restoring the biome and providing an income for thousands of vulnerable families.
- Bureaucratic and logistic hurdles in Brazil traditionally leave small farmers and traditional communities out of mainstream markets and industries, but bridging this gap has been one of the keys to the cooperative’s success.

Timmermans vs. Bolsonaro: Will the EU get deforestation off our dinner plates? (commentary)
- The European Commission is drafting a plan to address deforestation linked with commodity supply chains.
- But Nico Muzi, Europe Director of global environmental group Mighty Earth and member of the EU Commission Expert Group on protecting and restoring the world’s forests, argues the measure has a significant loophole for soy-based animal feed and leather from Brazil.
- “The leaked plan has several major loopholes that would substantially and unnecessarily weaken its impact even as deforestation in Brazil surges,” Muzi writes. “Even while the law would protect parts of the Amazon rainforest, it would still allow big agriculture companies like Cargill to continue to drive large-scale deforestation right next door in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna and Pantanal wetlands and export the products of that destruction to Europe.”
- The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Fires bear down on Brazil park that’s home to jaguars, maned wolves
- Thousands of fires caused by humans in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna region continue to spread, with several fires around and inside Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The park is home to dozens of rare and threatened species as well as the source of many important rivers and waterways; experts warn the intensity of the fires could permanently damage the natural vegetation.
- The fires don’t come as a surprise to many scientists who had predicted earlier this year that ongoing drought, rising rates of deforestation, and lack of enforcement would build up to a severe fire season.
- Every single month this year has seen above-average levels of fire in the Cerrado, with more than 36% of all fires in Brazil this year concentrated in this biome, even though it only covers just over 20% of Brazil’s land mass.

‘On the map’: App shines light on 5,000 ‘invisible’ families in Brazil’s Cerrado and beyond
- A new report shows the results of an application that has mapped out more than 5,000 families in 76 communities from 23 Brazilian states, whose territories amount to 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) that, until now, have gone unrecognized on official government maps.
- The digital mapping platform, called Tô No Mapa (“I am on the map” in Portuguese), allows traditional communities to demarcate their lands and list significant points of interest and conflict.
- The app was developed by the Brazilian civil society organization Institute for Society, Population and Nature (ISPN), the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and several other Brazilian NGOs working with traditional communities.
- Traditional peoples and communities play a vital role in conserving biodiversity, and guaranteeing their legal rights to land and territory is increasingly being recognized as a key conservation necessity, according to a wide range of studies and reports.

New map identifies risks, and potential sanctuaries, for Brazil’s diving duck
- The Brazilian merganser, a duck that’s the mascot for the country’s waterways, is among the top 10 most threatened birds in the world, with only about 250 individuals left in the wild.
- As part of conservation efforts, scientists have recently published a map showing the critically endangered species’ distribution in its remaining habitat, as well as identifying suitable new areas where it could thrive.
- The map also highlights the threats to this bioindicator species that needs clear, pollutant-free water to survive; the main threat comes from the damming of rivers, which affects water flow and quality for the mergansers.
- The researchers found 36 small hydropower plants planned for areas close to sites where the species lives, potentially impacting 504 square kilometers (196 square miles), or 4.1% of the total area suitable for the duck’s habitat.

End of deforestation tracker for Brazil’s Cerrado an ‘incalculable loss’
- For 20 years, Brazil’s space agency, INPE, has run a program monitoring deforestation and fire risk in the Cerrado savanna, a global biodiversity hotspot.
- But that program may be shut down at the end of this year due to a lack of money, after a funding agreement with the World Bank ended last year.
- Scientists, civil society groups, and the soy industry have all spoken out against allowing the program to end, calling it an “incalculable loss”; soy traders, in particular, depend on the data to prove their commodity is deforestation-free.
- INPE’s data is also crucial in guiding the work of environmental regulators, which has grown increasingly urgent in light of projections that the entire biome could collapse within 30 years under current rates of deforestation.

Debt deal with deforester BrasilAgro puts UBS’s green commitment in question
- Despite its sustainability rhetoric, Swiss bank UBS has financed controversial land developer BrasilAgro with a bond issuance that raised $45.5 million. The operation is part of a broader strategy to profit from Brazilian agribusiness, including the consolidation of a joint venture with the Brazilian bank.
- BrasilAgro is allegedly responsible deforesting nearly 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) of native vegetation in its farms in Brazil’s Cerrado region and was fined $1.1 million by Brazil’s environmental protection agency for illegal deforestation.
- The financial product chosen to raise money for BrasilAgro, a CRA or “agribusiness receivable certificate,” is backed by future harvests and has been a favored tool used to raise record amounts of money from the capital markets for Brazilian agribusiness firms over the past several years.
- Although there are hopes that CRAs could support sustainable practices in Brazil, financial data reviewed by Mongabay show that the largest issuances in recent months have all been for highly controversial companies such as BrasilAgro, JBS and Minerva.

Tesco’s meat problem (commentary)
- Campaigners argue new requirements from Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in the U.K., on meat suppliers sourcing from South America are an improvement over the status quo but point to critical issues with the details of the plan.
- Meat has outsized environmental consequences. Raising meat produces more climate pollution, fouls more drinking water, and requires more land for livestock and feed globally than all other food crops combined.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Cerrado desertification: Savanna could collapse within 30 years, says study
- Deforestation is amplifying climate change effects in the Brazilian Cerrado savanna biome, making it much hotter and drier. Researchers observed monthly increases of 2.24°C (4.03°F) in average maximum temperatures between 1961 and 2019. If this trend persists, temperature could be 6°C (10.8°F) higher in 2050 than in 1961.
- Cerrado air moisture is decreasing partly due to the removal of trees, which bring water up from as much as 15 meters (nearly 50 feet) underground to carry on photosynthesis during the dry season. Replacement of native vegetation by crops also reduces the absorption of sunlight by wild plants and leads to an increase in temperature.
- Even dew, the only source of water for smaller plants and many insects during the dry season, is being reduced due to deforestation and deepening drought. The demise of pollinators that rely on dew may prompt a cascading effect adversely impacting the biome’s biodiversity, which could collapse in the next 30 years.
- The Cerrado is often called Brazil’s “water tank,” as it is the source of eight of 12 Brazilian river basins. Its looming biome collapse and deepening drought mean less water for rural and urban populations and for agriculture. Low flows in rivers will also affect hydropower, likely causing energy shortages.

Soy and cattle team up to drive deforestation in South America: Study
- Between 2000 and 2019, the production of soybean in South America has doubled, covering an area larger than the state of California.
- Soybean farms are typically planted in old cattle pastures, and as soy encroaches, pasture is forced into new frontiers, driving deforestation and fires.
- Although soy was found to be largely an indirect driver of deforestation, policies addressing deforestation have to consider multiple commodities at once, such as the relationship between beef and soy.
- Increased commitments by companies to source from “zero-deforestation” supply chains are a promising strategy, but in order to work, the market needs to be more transparent.

Brazilian Cerrado savanna: Wildcat miners descend on Indigenous reserve
- The Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous reserve in Brazil’s Roraima state covers 1.75 million hectares (4.32 million acres) along the nation’s border with Venezuela and Guyana. It is home to 26,705 Indigenous people.
- The territory has been under pressure from invaders for decades, even after being demarcated in 2005. But illegal incursions are reaching a new peak now, with an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 gold miners operating in the reserve.
- Incendiary speeches by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have emboldened the miners, say experts, while attempts to crackdown on wildcat mining in the Yanomami Territory in the Amazon rainforest may have pushed illegal miners operating there into the Cerrado savanna where most of Raposa Serra do Sol is located.
- The illicit miners are causing deforestation and contamination of the Cotinga River and other waterways with sediment and toxic mining waste, including mercury used to process gold. They’re also putting Indigenous people at risk from Covid-19, violence, and social ills including alcohol abuse and prostitution.

Landmark decision: Brazil Supreme Court sides with Indigenous land rights
- Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court (STF) has unanimously accepted an appeal by the Guarani Kaiowá Indigenous people and agreed to review the process around a past case that cancelled the demarcation of their Indigenous territory.
- The Guarani Kaiowá’s decades-long fight for land rights to their ancestral territory, the Guyraroká land in Mato Grosso do Sul state, had been suspended by a 2014 ruling halting the territory’s demarcation process.
- The STF’s decision to review the process in the 2014 case, which hadn’t allowed for Indigenous consultation, is seen by analysts as a victory for Indigenous groups in Brazil, and as a setback for President Jair Bolsonaro who has declared his opposition to any Indigenous demarcation occurring during his administration.
- In a related upcoming case, the STF is expected to rule on the “marco temporal,” which requires that Indigenous people have been living on claimed lands in 1988 in order to establish a legal territory. But litigators have argued that date is unfairly arbitrary, as many Indigenous groups were forced off ancestral lands by then.

Study sounds latest warning of rainforest turning into savanna as climate warms
- A recent study from Brazil shows that heat stress is disrupting a critical component of photosynthesis in tree species found in the Amazon and Cerrado belt.
- Leaves heat up faster than the ambient air, and sufficiently high temperatures can cause irreversible damage to them and endanger the tree.
- The area has become hotter in recent decades and faced increasingly intense heat waves, fueled not just by global warming but also local deforestation.
- Tropical forests could look more and more like deciduous forests or savannas in the future, which are better adapted to deal with higher temperatures, the study found.

Can ‘Slow Food’ save Brazil’s fast-vanishing Cerrado savanna?
- The incredibly biodiverse Cerrado is Brazil’s second-largest biome after the Amazon. However, half of the savanna’s native vegetation has already been lost to industrial agribusiness, which produces beef, soy, cotton, corn, eucalyptus and palm oil for export.
- Those wishing to save the Cerrado today are challenged by the lack of protected lands. One response by traditional communities and conservationists is to help the rest of Brazil and the rest of the planet value the Cerrado’s cornucopia of endemic fruits, nuts and vegetables that thrive across South America’s greatest savanna.
- These include the baru nut, the babassu and macaúba coconut, the sweet gabiroba (looking like a small guava), the cagaita (resembling a shiny green tomato), the large, scaly-looking marolo (with creamy pulp and strong flavor), the berry-shaped mangaba, which means “good fruit for eating,” the egg-shaped, emerald-green pequi, and more.
- Small family farmers, beekeepers, traditional and Indigenous communities, Afro-Brazilian quilombolas (runaway slave descendants), socioenvironmental activists, and celebrity chefs have become allies in a fast-expanding slow food network, declaring: “We want to see the Cerrado on the plate of the Brazilian and the world!”

Guarani Indigenous men brutalized in Brazilian ‘expansion of violence’
- In the 1960s and 70s, the Guarani Kaiowá Indigenous group was expelled from its ancestral lands in Mato Grosso do Sul state by the Brazilian military dictatorship to expand the country’s agricultural frontier. Today, their traditional Indigenous homeland is occupied by large farms, whose owners refuse to return the property.
- A federal Supreme Court decision resulted in an order to allow the return of the Guarani Kaiowá to their former homeland where they now await the official demarcation of their territory to be approved by the federal government — an approval that still hasn’t come after the passage of ten years.
- The land dispute and standoff between the ranchers and the Guarani Kaiowá has repeatedly flared into violence over the years. In 2011, Indigenous leader Nízio Gomes was murdered in the Guaiviry community area by armed thugs.
- Violence flared yet again in Guaiviry last week when three Guarani Kaiowá men were assaulted, they say, by gunmen from the large Querência Farm. The Guarani Kaiowá say that intimidation of their community members has seriously escalated under the Jair Bolsonaro administration, which has shown hostility toward Indigenous rights.

The art of adaption and survival: A story of Brazil’s Kadiwéu people
- The Kadiwéu Indigenous Land is located in western Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, near the Paraguay border. The protected reserve covers 539,000 hectares (1.33 million acres), spanning both the Cerrado (71%) and Pantanal (29%) biomes.
- The 1,500 Kadiwéu living in the reserve today are descended from larger Indigenous groups decimated by Portuguese and Spanish colonizers. The Kadiwéu were donated their territory by Emperor Dom Pedro II for their role in the 1864-70 War of the Triple Alliance; theirs was the first Indigenous reserve ever established in Brazil.
- The remnant Kadiwéu long seemed headed for extinction, but their culture survived and adapted. Their arts, especially pottery and body painting, were studied by international anthropologists, including Claude Lévi-Strauss. Today, the Kadiwéu are incorporating their designs into international high fashion.
- But the Kadiwéu still face challenges. Their reserve continues to be invaded by illegal loggers and land grabbers. In 2019-20, more than 40% of their reserve burned in the Pantanal biome wildfires — brought on by record drought due to climate change and irresponsible land management by ranchers. COVID-19 also looms.

Brazil must do more to protect its people, forests, and the planet (commentary)
- Amid skyrocketing deforestation and destruction of Brazil’s natural environment, the Bolsonaro government is weakening climate commitments and rolling back domestic environmental protections, driving Brazil’s people and the planet ‘off a cliff.’
- This destruction threatens Indigenous communities, wildlife and the global climate, and it is also unpopular in Brazil, as it threatens the country’s economic standing, with reports emerging that rampant deforestation is blocking Brazil’s accession to the OECD.
- Urgent solutions to this existential threat for irreplaceable biomes include stronger climate targets, restoration of effective environmental legislation, and international pressure on the Bolsonaro government.
- This article is a commentary and the views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Traditional healers are preserving their knowledge, and with it, the biodiversity of Brazil’s savanna
- The Brazilian savanna contains almost a third of Brazil’s biodiversity but less than 10% is officially protected and its native vegetation is threatened by a rapidly-advancing agricultural frontier.
- Much of the flora and fauna remain unknown to conventional science.
- A network of traditional healers is at the forefront of finding ways to protect, sustainably manage, and document the biodiversity based on their in-depth knowledge of medicinal plants.
- Experts say that finding ways to value the savanna more, such as through recognizing its immense botanical and pharmacological value, could aid in its conservation.

A new app puts invisible communities in Brazil’s Cerrado on the map
- Thousands of Indigenous, quilombola, and traditional communities live in the Cerrado, the world’s most biodiverse tropical savanna. But many lack access to official titles and deeds, and are not registered on official maps.
- As the agricultural frontier pushes into the northern part of the savanna, land-grabbing and violent attacks are increasing. Many of these communities risk losing their land and their resources upon which they depend.
- Now, a new smartphone app developed in collaboration with communities in the northern Cerrado and two Brazilian NGOs allows communities themselves to register their lands on the app, as well as important local sites and conflicts with farmers and land-grabbers.
- The developers of the app aim to halt the rapid and unequal development that threatens the lives and livelihoods of those working to protect the savanna, and ultimately help conserve the last remaining tracts of native Cerrado.

The Possible Meat: A Brazilian farmer shows ranching can regenerate the Cerrado
- Matheus Sborgia, a Brazilian chef, decided to bet on regenerative agriculture after inheriting his grandfather’s cattle ranch in the heart of the Cerrado.
- Sborgia embraced the idea of holistic management and rotational grazing preached by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist who became famous for his provocative idea that to save the planet from climate change, instead of reducing livestock farming, we would have to increase it.
- Instead of letting his 200 cows range freely, Sborgia lets them eat everything in a small plot of land before moving them on to another plot; by the time they cycle back the original plot has already regenerated.
- The Brazilian Cerrado is one of the country’s most overgrazed regions. It suffered one of its worst wildfire seasons ever during the past year, and while the ranches around Sborgia’s property were dry, his own land was green and full of life.