Cerrado loses nearly 30 million hectares of native vegetation in 35 years

22 de September de 2020 | News

Sep 22, 2020 | News

The Cerrado, Brazil’s savanna region, lost 28 million hectares of native vegetation, an area equivalent to Ecuador, between 1985 and 2019. That’s one third of all native vegetation that Brazil lost in the period. This area represents, in 35 years, a net reduction of 21%, which accounts for the difference between the decrease of original vegetation and increase of recovered vegetation.

Thus, the country’s second largest biome now has 53,2% of native vegetation cover, or 19% of what is registered in this category in all of Brazil.

The data comes from Collection 5 by MapBiomas (mapbiomas.org), a multi-institutional initiative involving universities, NGOs and technology companies, focused on monitoring the transformations of land cover and use in Brazil, and was recently announced during an event open to researchers and general audience on National Cerrado Day (September 11).

MapBiomas also shows that currently 44% of Cerrado area is taken over by agricultural activity, with an increase of 25 million hectares in 35 years: 72% of this increase went to crop cultivation, mainly grains. “The change can be observed visually, in the southern areas of the Cerrado and in Matopiba (the region that comprises the Cerrado in the northeastern states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia)”, said Ane Alencar, Director of Science at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM). At MapBiomas, the institute is responsible for mapping native vegetation of the biome.

With the conversion of native vegetation for other uses, forest formations have suffered more, due to being in areas with more fertile soil, while savanna formations have seen deforestation increase, due to the topography.

“We need to change our reality so that the rest of the Cerrado does not encounter the same fate as the portion that has been destroyed”, said University of Brasília professor Ricardo Machado, Cerrado specialist, who participated in the event. “We cannot allow the process to simply continue to show our grandchildren when a certain pixel was deforested, but we must instigate more studies and public policies.”

In this respect, Machado states that the knowledge produced today on the conversion of other kinds of native vegetation apart from forests is enough to expand protection of the Cerrado as well. In the same direction, the monitoring coordinator at The Nature Conservancy Brazil, Mario Barroso, highlights the importance of MapBiomas in the search for solutions.

“In the past, because official data only looked at forest formations, it seemed that deforestation only occurred in this type of vegetation. MapBiomas has changed that perception. What matters is what is explicitly happening on the field”, says Barroso. “For complex problems, the solutions are also complex. We should discuss the role of companies, but also the issue of land fraud and land titling, for example.”

All data by MapBiomas can be seen and downloaded for free on the platform mapbiomas.org.

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