Cerrado is an intertwining of deeply united bonds, a secret to unveil. It is more than crooked branches and waterfalls; they are the Cerrados, something for you to be lost deep in.
About half of the original Cerrado area was deforested and more than 96% of this biome deforestation was caused by farming. At the same time Cerrado is the most biodiverse savanna in the world, generating several essential services to life. This is an intense duality in the same territory.
Farming itself depends on the services generated by Cerrado and without the remaining Cerrado area, the impacts are significant: rain tends to be irregular and cause crop failures, with losses of tens of millions of reais per year; crop pollination is seriously affected, generating food insecurity, since 60% of the species grown depend on pollination, including soy, coffee, oranges and beans; imbalance caused by deforestation causes contact between wild and domesticated species, allowing disease transmission, among many other impacts.
Invariably, the bond between the agricultural production system and the remaining Cerrado are often gets little attention, but it is complex and it should warn everyone in order to encourage reflection and the search for more balanced interactions.
Cerrado is a mosaic of vegetation, fields, savannas and forests that mutually shelter and sustain more than 12 thousand species of native plants and about 320 thousand species of fauna divided in 35 groups (philos). Most of this fauna and flora are species only present in this biome (endemic), and all this wealth is equivalent to 5% of the planet's biodiversity.
This diversity has great value and a fundamental role in everyone's life. Cerrado is a source of molecules from which several medicines are extracted, being kept by traditional knowledge and increasingly studied by scientists.
This living pharmacy provide us with countless options ranging from: cervejinha do campo (Arrabidaea brachypoda) to treat Leishmaniasis injuries; skin secretion of perereca (Phyllomedusa oreades) to treat Chagas; Barbatimão (Stryphnodendron astringens) for healing and infections; Pacari (Lafoensia pacari A.St.-Hil.) for gastritis, ulcers and skin sores, among several other popular uses.
Cerrado fruits have captivated our taste for generations, creating a very rich identity relationship. Certainly, the food symbol of Cerrado is Pequi (Caryocar brasiliense), but there are many others and, among them, stand out: Baru nut (Dipteryx alata), Gueroba palm heart (Syagrus oleracea), native Cerrado cashews (Anacardium nanum and Anacardium humile), Buriti (Mauritia flexuosa), Cerrado jatoba (Hymenaea stigonocarpa), Mato Passion Fruit (Passiflora cincinnata), Cagaita (Eugenia dysenterica), Mama-cadela (Brosimum gaudichaudii), Araticum (Annona crassiflora) and a hundred other fruits.
Besides medicines and food, our biome maintains complex life support systems, including the water cycle. Cerrado trees usually have very long roots, which allow them to collect water from deep ground, spraying water into the atmosphere, and thus maintaining air humidity (evapotranspiration).
These same roots allow the soil to be more porous, easing rainwater infiltration into the soil, which in turn will gradually release water, sustaining rivers in dry periods. Therefore, sustaining the remaining cerrado area means preserving water for everyone.
Cerrado occupies about 1/4 of the Brazilian territory. However, currently, only half (54%) of its original vegetation remains. One out of every three hectares deforested in Brazil belong to Cerrado, which makes this the Brazilian biome with the highest deforestation rate. Cerrado is a threatened biome, but it is also a biome to be protected.
Through different projects the Cerrados Institute has created these reserves alongside the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), partnering with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Nature and Culture International (NCI), Funatura, the French Embassy and local partners such as Córrego da Barriguda and Cabeceira do Rio das Almas Associations.
Nowadays, Cerrado has more than 255 RPPNs, totaling more than 180,000 hectares, which is equivalent to 21% of the country's RPPNs. But the importance of Cerrado RPPNs is measured not only by their coverage, but also by the uniqueness of the areas they protect. Involving landowners in the creation process allows these areas to be protected close to both large Parks and in the middle of intensely occupied areas, acting as a refuge for fauna and protecting sensitive ecosystems.
RPPNs are places for conservation, research, education and tourism, a sustainable way to preserve the remaining Cerrado area, by interacting with it. These Conservation Units have special potential to protect areas with scenic beauties, which provide contact for visitors and researchers, as it happens with many of the reserves presented in this place, which added together increase their respective protection potential.
In the Pirenópolis region, particularly in the Barriguda Valley, we created ten RPPNs, which together with the other two that already existed compose the densest mosaic of RPPNs in Brazil, and another two RPPNs are in the final stage of creation.
The last great remainings of Cerrado in Goiás are located in the north of the State, in the region of Chapada dos Veadeiros. The main Conservation Unit in the region is the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, with its 240,000 hectares of landscape and exuberant diversity. Besides the park there is the Pouso Alto Environmental Protection Area that surrounds the park and other smaller units such as the RPPNs mentioned here.
The deforested chunk of Cerrado.
Different aspects have driven the biome's farming occupation. Among them are vast plateaus, its well-demarcated climate and cheap workforce available, together with technical improvements in the most different aspects of different crops. This resulted in 46% of Cerrado being "Sawn", deforested, since 96% of the biome's occupied areas are for farming uses. Nowadays, 42% of soy and 44% of beef exported by Brazil comes from this biome and this export results in a consumption link with the rest of the world.
Sawn: The deforested chunk of Cerrado
In 2018 more than 47 million tons of soy were exported from Cerrado, of which 24 million were to China, 9.8 million remained in Brazil, 4.8 million to the European Union, of which 652,000 tons to France. In 2017, 926 thousand tons of beef were exported from Cerrado and the main destination was also China (mainland and Hong Kong) with 360 thousand tons imported, followed by Iran (110 thousand tons), Russia (100 thousand tons) and the European Union (70 thousand tons).
Sawn: The deforested chunk of Cerrado
Farming commodity production has clear marks in Cerrado, since it is the main area occupant and water consumer in the country (with 68% for agriculture and 10.8% for cattle), but we should forget the role of consumption.
Sawn: The deforested chunk of Cerrado
National and international consumption of meat and other food that need large areas is a strong link between the common citizen and the biome deforestation. Currently, 24% of Cerrado is occupied with pastures.7 The food that needs more land for its production (m²/year) is beef, around 160 m²/year to produce 100g of protein, while (farmed) fish and peanuts need around 80 m²/year to produce the same amount of protein.36 Rethinking the diet is therefore an effective way to protect the biome.
Disregarding a few exceptions, country leaders are increasingly involved in finding ways to hold back the most severe consequences of climate change. The Paris agreement, approved in 2016 after COP 21 is proof of this.
The main effort is to hold back temperature increase to a maximum of 1.5°C and this involves a major adaptive effort for countries like Brazil to reduce their vulnerability and greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Among the Brazilian commitments in the agreement are: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37%, zero illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030 and restore 15 million hectares of degraded pastures and restore/reforest 12 million hectares of forest by 2030. Agreements such as this reflect national regulations, with more specific policies, such as the National Policy on Climate Change, which, among other policies, aims to reducing annual deforestation rates of Cerrado by 40% with regard to the average registered between 1999 and 2008.
In the Brazilian case, the main source of emissions is deforestation (land use change), in particular, Cerrado and Amazon deforestation, which total 44% (845 MT CO2e) of total emissions in 2018. This makes the conservation of Cerrado a key element in minimizing the effects of climate change in Brazil, since the biome’s deforestation emits about 11% (248 MT CO2e) of the national total, which is more than the double of what the country emitted by industrialists in 2016.
Brazil is at serious risk of not meeting the targets, especially for not developing and implementing adequate public policies. In the case of Cerrado, annual deforestation has been around 6.5 thousand km², and the recovery of degraded areas is still weak.
Cerrado degraded areas
Just holding back deforestation in Cerrado is not enough. As more than 46% of the biome has already been deforested and about 36 million hectares of pastures are degraded, a major recovery effort is needed. Biome degraded areas could be recovered to restore the habitat of native species, as well as for forest and agricultural uses with more efficient techniques, merging productive purposes with biodiversity conservation.
Cerrado degraded areas
Different techniques can be used to recover Cerrado degraded areas, among them: direct sowing, seedling planting, conducting natural regeneration and agroforestry systems. Each one has potential and limitations, which vary depending on the characteristics of the area and the purposes intended with the recovery actions. Choosing the technique to be used in each situation is crucial if purposes are to be achieved and recovery benefits are to be maximized.
Cerrado degraded areas
Unfortunately, there are numerous examples where this does not happen in the best way. There are already guidelines for choosing the techniques according to the characteristics of the areas (see www.webambeinte.gov.br), but we believe it is necessary to specify the potential of each technique in each particular situation.
Cerrado degraded areas
This information on which purposes each technique best serves in each situation needs to be adequately systematized and widely known in a simple and direct way. This is the only way to have a proper recovery of the different Cerrado ecosystems.
Traditional peoples and communities and other rural populations living in Cerrado contribute to the biome's conservation because they have a belonging relationship with their territory: protecting Cerrado is to defend their identity and their lifestyles. Popular knowledge about Cerrado biodiversity put into practice in the day-to-day life of the communities is one of the reasons why Cerrado still remains in these places. Agroextractivism of flora and fauna products, such as fruits, seeds, fibers, barks, honey, among others, reinforces the economy of communities, contributes to their food security and are a cultural expression. These forms of landscape use allow maintaining water cycles, biodiversity gene flows and carbon stocks in vegetation and soil, in other words, they provide relevant ecosystem services to society.
The sustainable use of Cerrado landscape based on knowledge, practices and know-how developed over generations of interaction with the biome is a common characteristic of Cerrado populations; at the same time, there many peoples, with diverse cultures and traditions: Geraizeiros, Vazanteiros, Babaçu Coconut Breakers, Fundo e Fecho de Pasto Communities, Everlasting Flowers Catchers, Quilombolas, Indigenous Peoples, family farmers and agroextractivists who are united in community organizations, popular social movements and networks to play a leading role in defending their rights to territory, to good living and to the conservation of the biome.
The landscape of the territories inhabited by these communities stands out from the surrounding areas occupied by large grain monocultures, pastures, mining and tree monocultures; for having diverse glades and agroforestry systems, still maintaining native vegetation and conserving springs and watercourses.
Even suffering strong pressures such as illegal deforestation, land grabbing and land fragilities, the conservation state of territories, in some cases, turns them into connection corridors and trampolines with protected areas such as Conservation Units and Indigenous Lands and even between private areas protected by law, such as Legal Reserves and Permanent Preservation Areas.
It is important to promote sociobiodiversity chain products and reinforce community economies, for example, through public promotion policies and responsible and conscious consumption, so that they can continue and innovate their traditional practices while preserving Cerrado due to sustainable landscape use.
You and Cerrado
It is common to feel a certain distance from news regarding deforestation, climate change, rural conflicts, commodity export, biodiversity, indigenous people, protected areas, among other topics related to Cerrado. However, these and other topics are inherent bonds between everyone and Cerrado.
The protection of Cerrado in private areas depends on the commitment of different people and institutions, and without them it would not be possible to carry out this work. ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation) is the body responsible for setting reserves at the federal level; the owners are a central part in this process, and it is based on their initiative and sensitivity that this work starts; local partners with knowledge of the region, allow us to put our feet on the ground and interact with local reality; funding and supporting institutions have joined us to support these works; and technicians who get into cerrado and make all this saga possible. We are grateful to all these people, whose efforts and results are increasingly amplified, so that with this much more cerrado is protected.
We at Cerrados Institute understand that treasuring Cerrado and those living in it is the most efficient way to preserve it, and that is why we created this content, as a way to promote the important role that each one of us has in the conservation of the biome. We hope you can become a part of this bond that protects Cerrado.
We would like to thank all the people and partner institutions that supported Elos do Cerrado.