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The Brazilian cerrado vegetation and threats to its biodiversity

Ratter, J.A., Ribeiro, J.F., Bridgewater, S.
Annals of botany 1997 v.80 no.3 pp. 223-230
cerrado, flora, biodiversity, ecosystems, habitat destruction, biogeography, agriculture, forest products, natural resource management, charcoal, Brazil
The Brazilian cerrado (savanna) biome covers 2 million km2 representing 23% of the area of the country. It is an ancient biome with rich biodiversity, estimated at 160000 species of plants, fungi and animals. There are about 800 species of trees and large shrubs in the savanna vegetation and several times that number of ground species (herbs and subshrubs). When the flora of gallery forests, mesophytic forests and other habitats occurring in the biome are included, the total number of vascular plant species is estimated to reach about 10000. During the last 25 years modern agriculture has been developed in the cerrado to produce soya, maize, rice, etc and enormous numbers of cattle are raised in planted pastures. Charcoal production for the Brazilian steel industry also causes great destruction of the cerrado. By 1994 an estimated 695000 km2 of cerrado (representing 35% of its area) had been converted to 'anthropic landscape'. This compares to the destruction of about 400000 km2 of Brazilian Amazonian forest representing 12 or 13% of the area of this biome. Conservation initiatives are now desperately needed. Only 15% of the cerrado biome is preserved as Federal Reserves and this area needs to be at least tripled. Surveys of the vascular flora aimed at discovering biogeographic patterns are now in progress with the objective of choosing representative areas and biodiversity 'hot spots' for conservation.