Thursday, December 8

Scientists raise the alarm at the increase in deforestation in the Cerrado of Brazil | Brazil

Deforestation last year rose to the highest level since 2015 in Brazil’s Cerrado, prompting scientists to raise the alarm on Monday about the state of the world’s most species-rich savanna and a major carbon sink that helps to avoid climate change.

The Cerrado, the world’s largest savanna that spans several Brazilian states, is often called an “upside-down forest” because of the deep roots that its plants sink into the ground to survive seasonal droughts and fires.

Questions and answers

What is the Brazilian Cerrado and why is it in crisis?


The Cerrado biome of Brazil is a vast tropical savanna that stretches diagonally across central Brazil and covers 2 million square kilometers, about 22% of the country, as well as parts of Bolivia and Paraguay.

According to that of Brazil environment ministry, the Cerrado rich in biodiversity has 11,620 species of plants, 1,200 fish and 837 species of fish and its 200 mammals include jaguars, anteaters, rhea and tapirs. But more than half of its landscape – grassland scrub and dry forest – has been converted to agriculture since it produces soybeans for China, Europe and other markets. The lost region 105,000 square kilometers of native coverage from 2008 to 2018, according to Reuters, 50% more than the Amazon, which has more legal protection.

According to an international study published by Science magazine, around 27,000 properties in the Cerrado had carried out deforestation “in all probability illegally”, and 48% of the properties did not meet the requirements of the Brazilian forest code, such as protecting 20% ​​of their land (compared to 80% in the Amazon). The study found that around 20% of soybean exports and 17% of beef exports from Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado biomes to the European Union “may be contaminated with illegal deforestation.”

Other study By researchers from Dartmouth College in the US, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, they found that land clearing had changed the climate in the Cerrado. Temperatures were higher during the corn growing season and evapotranspiration decreased.

Last year in an article published in Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation, the scientists warned that “climate change is likely to cause local extinctions of various species of mammals throughout the Closed biome ”.

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

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The destruction of these trees, grasses and other plants in the Cerrado is a major source of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions, although it is much less densely forested than the more famous Amazon rainforest that it borders.

Deforestation and other clearing of native vegetation in the Cerrado increased 8% to 8,531 square kilometers in the 12 months to July, Brazil’s official period for measuring deforestation, according to the national space research agency Inpe. That’s more than 10 times the size of New York City’s land area of ​​783.84 square kilometers.

“It is extremely worrying,” said Mercedes Bustamante, an ecologist at the University of Brasilia.


Bustamante also criticized the government for the lack of transparency in announcing deforestation data on New Year’s Eve.

The additional destruction is particularly concerning, scientists say, considering that roughly half of the Cerrado has been destroyed since the 1970s, primarily for agriculture and ranching.

“You are transforming thousands of square kilometers a year,” said Manuel Ferreira, a geographer at the Federal University of Goiás.

“Few other places on earth have seen such a rapid transformation.”

Ferreira said that new species of plants and animals are being discovered regularly in the Cerrado and that many are likely being eradicated before they can be studied.

After falling from highs in the early 2000s, deforestation in the Cerrado has risen again since right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, calling for more agriculture and development in sensitive ecosystems.

Bustamante and other scientists blame Bolsonaro for encouraging deforestation with his pro-development rhetoric and rolling back environmental law enforcement.

Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment. He previously defended his policies as a means to lift the country out of poverty and pointed out that Brazil has preserved much more of its territory than Europe or the United States.

“Deforestation is the most stark and stark indicator of this government’s terrible environmental policy,” said Ane Alencar, scientific director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, a nonprofit organization.

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