Data released in June by the federal government regarding deforestation in the Cerrado show that between 2016 and 2017, Brazil’s second largest biome lost 14,185 square kilometers of native vegetation, or 6,777 km2 in the first year and 7,408 km2 in the second.
The number was celebrated by the federal government as positive, as the rate fell in relation to 2015, when 11,881 km2 were deforested. However, accumulated deforestation in the Cerrado is equivalent to that of the Amazon in 2016 and 2017, when 14,840 km2 were deforested. Considering that the Cerrado area is half the Amazon and has 49.9% remaining landscape, while the Amazon has 85%, the savannah is consolidated as the most threatened biome in Brazil today.
This deforestation equals the emission of 440 million tons of CO2 equivalent, in a conservative estimate. “Although we are within the national goal of reducing deforestation in the Cerrado, which by the way is a high goal, we need to take it down even more if we want the Cerrado fulfilling its role,” says IPAM’s Director of Science, Ane Alencar. “When we think about the challenges we face regarding greenhouse control, the loss of biodiversity and environmental services that the Cerrado provides, and the impact on traditional populations that depend on these resources, deforestation of this size has a very high cost to Brazil.”
Deforestation was concentrated in the region known as Matopiba, which covers the Cerrado in the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, and Bahia. This is today one of the great fronts of agricultural advancement, along the southern Amazon, with increasing production of grains and livestock. The four states totaled 8,785 km2 of deforestation in 2016 and 2017, or 74% of the total recorded. It is also the region where there were the most remaining landscapes in 2015: 69.7%, according to Mapbiomas.
The government was not able to pinpoint the reasons for the decrease but cited actions against illegal deforestation and satellite monitoring. Edson Duarte, Minister of the Environment, recalled that the Forest Code allows the deforestation of up to 80% of the rural property located in the Cerrado, which can also influence those high rates recorded in the biome.