Cerrado – the other biodiversity wonder

Serra do Cipó, in Minas Gerais. Photo by Jay Woodworth/Flickr


Cerrado, the Brazilian equivalent of African savanna and Australian outback, is frequently despised. Its trees are small, dry, and the soil is acidic and poor, in contrast with the flamboyance of the Amazonian and the Atlantic rainforest. But don’t be fooled  by its discretion. It is home to one out of every 20 species of plants and animals in the planet, including ant eaters, macaws, armadillos, jaguars, guará wolves and gorgeous plants, such as bromeliads, cacti and buriti palm trees. In the Cerrado area that surrounds the country’s capital, Brasília, scientists identified 1,000 species of butterflies and 500 species of bees and wasps, plus 90 different termites.

Frequent droughts and natural fires are unable to destroy the cerrado‘s trees. Their thick barks and the huge roots help them keep the water and the nutrients for months, if needed.

As big as UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain put together, it covers most of Central Brazil, 23% of the country’s territory. It hosts some of the sources of three major South American water basins: the Platine, the Amazonian and the São Francisco. It also lays over the main aquifer of the sub-continent, Aquífero Guarani. But most of its riches is gone, thanks to cattle farming and huge plantations of soy, and also coffee and oranges.

Buriti, by Nina Dalmolin/ Flickr

In a great article published a few days ago, British daily The Independent says:

Wildlife groups fear that soy production to meet rising global demand for meat has shifted from the Amazon rainforest to Brazil’s lesser known interior. Overall, annual deforestation of the Amazon has slowed to 0.18%. The vast majority of the rainforest is still standing, 83 per per cent, and 25 per cent is officially protected. The position in the Cerrado is almost the opposite – only 20% of pristine land is intact and only 8% is officially protected (less than 3% on government or state government land).

The newspaper quotes José Correia Quintal, head of  an agricultural coop based on Cerrado area:

“[Development] is bringing money and profits. But at the same time agrochemicals are affecting people’s health and contaminating the rivers. The Cerrado biodiversity is very important, because each plant, each fruit, has a use for medicine or for food. Our concern is that many species are disappearing – animals and vegetable species – and we rely on those species to survive.”

Paepalanthus flower, by João de Deus Medeiros/Flickr
Tamanduá/anteater by sapienssolutions/Flickr