Scientists and environmentalists call for attention to the Cerrado at COP 28

13 novembro 2023

A letter signed by more than 40 researchers highlights the importance of the biome in combating the climate crisis and the urgency of its conservation
By WWF-Brazil

Bring attention to the urgent need to value and preserve the Cerrado's biodiversity, as well as its traditional communities and indigenous peoples. This is the warning that scientists and environmentalists associated with universities and organizations in Brazil, the United States, Finland, France, and the United Kingdom make in a letter published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. 
The group, comprising more than 40 researchers, highlights COP 28, held this year in Dubai, as an opportunity to include the conservation of non-forest ecosystems, such as the Brazilian Cerrado and other biomes worldwide, in the fight against the climate crisis. 

In the letter, scientists and environmentalists note that, despite its obvious ecological, social, and economic importance to the world, the biome considered the "cradle of waters" for Brazil continues to be destroyed at a rapid pace by human action. Meanwhile, projections indicate an unprecedented extinction of endemic plants in this biome by 2050. Currently, only 3% of its area is legally protected and 62% is located on private property.

The legislation of the Brazilian Forest Code allows rampant deforestation in private areas in the Cerrado, protecting only 20% to 35% of native vegetation, in contrast to 80% for the Amazon. Therefore, there is no simple solution to prevent the loss of local vegetation, since national laws allow for its high rate of destruction. To make matters worse, the Cerrado has historically been seen as a great food production hub - an approach that has put the biome at risk, with more than 50% of its native vegetation having been lost to farming and cattle ranching. 

"The devaluation of the standing Cerrado means that the conversion of ecosystems to agriculture continues apace, with the impulse to serve the grain market prevailing more and more, which ends up putting the country's fresh water supply at risk, as well as the biodiversity and livelihoods of the region's indigenous peoples and traditional communities, who depend on the sustainable use of their natural resources. It is crucial to establish coordinated and comprehensive actions and regulations at national and global levels to ensure effective conservation of remaining areas and promote the restoration of degraded areas in the Cerrado," says Brazilian researcher Polyanna da C. Bispo, a lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Manchester in England.

For the expert, urgent measures are needed to conserve and restore the biome. And this should include water resources and fire management, establishing ecological corridors, restoring converted and degraded lands, as well as protecting indigenous communities and traditional peoples through environmental education actions and economic incentives to curb deforestation.

The Cerrado has a living cultural heritage in traditional communities and indigenous peoples, the well-known guardians of the Cerrado's biodiversity and waters, who have knowledge about the use of natural resources, nature's cycles, climate, and conservation of the biome, from which they derive their livelihoods. 

Recently, the Brazilian government launched a public consultation for the PPCerrado (Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation and Burning in the Cerrado Biome), which researchers believe is crucial to implement, given the urgent and unique challenge of combating the destruction of the biome.
"PPCerrado is a unique opportunity for Brazil to be bold and put an end to any deforestation in the Cerrado, not just illegal deforestation. Technological advances have made it possible to optimize intensive agriculture in the Cerrado, making it unnecessary to open new areas to increase productivity. Furthermore, the Cerrado urgently needs a policy to encourage restoration and for REDD+ programs to also value the region's rich biodiversity. Without a doubt, COP28 is the opportunity for countries with non-forest biomes to build solid strategies to conserve these regions”, adds Brazilian scientist Dr Celso H. L. Silva-Junior, researcher at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute - IPAM and Professor of the Program Postgraduate Program in Biodiversity and Conservation at the Federal University of Maranhão - UFMA.

The researchers also highlight the importance of international regulations, which are central to the establishment of deforestation-free product chains, not only focusing on the preservation of forests but also including non-forest ecosystems, such as the savannas of the Cerrado. "The European Union has already been discussing the inclusion of these ecosystems, which cover most of the Cerrado, in the regulation that deals with deforestation-free products. It is crucial to do this soon to prevent the Cerrado from continuing to be treated as a biome to be sacrified," explains Daniel E Silva, Conservation Specialist at WWF-Brazil.

Read the full letter from the researchers here.   
The legislation of the Brazilian Forest Code allows rampant deforestation in private areas in the Cerrado, protecting only 20% to 35% of native vegetation, in contrast to 80% for the Amazon
© © Moisés Muálem / WWF-Brasil