Monocultura de soja em Ribeiro Gonçalves, Piauí rel=
Monocultura de soja em Ribeiro Gonçalves, Piauí
© Adriano Gambarini / WWF-Brazil


Legal deforestation and land clearance is one of the great drivers of Cerrado formation loss. Over half its original vegetation has been destroyed to make way for extensive crop and cattle farming, energy generating and other infrastructure projects.
From the 18th century on, prospecting for gold and precious stones led to the settlement of some regions of the Cerrado by non indigenous populations. Following that cycle open range cattle ranching took over as the main economic activity in the biome up until the 1950s. With the construction of new capital cities like Goiania and Brasilia, official incentives led to the implantation of infrastructure and the installation of new agricultural areas as part of a government policy referred to as the ‘Green Revolution’.
Thanks to such official stimulation, the simultaneous development of agricultural technology, and the fact that six in every ten hectares of Cerrado are suitable for mechanised agriculture, more than 40% of the biome - about 850 thousand square kilometres - are now occupied by pastures and commercial crops. Furthermore, in terms of production, the Cerrado is currently responsible for one fourth of Brazil’s total grain production and four out of every ten head of the national cattle herd.
However, other estimates indicate that of all the areas of degraded pastureland in Brazil seven out of every ten are in the Cerrado or in areas of transition between the Cerrado and Amazon biomes, jeopardising the productivity of the cattle-raising activity itself. Also, half of the annual production of ten million tons of charcoal [used in steel manufacture] is produced from native Cerrado vegetation.
The result of such intense and largely unsustainable use has been the widespread transformation of Nature in the Cerrado over recent decades. Half of its original vegetation has been eliminated to make way for crops like soybean, cotton and sugarcane and for open range cattle raising, power plants and other infrastructure projects.  In the period from 2002 to 2008 alone, the biome lost an average 14.2 thousand square kilometres a year, and the remaining stands are in a highly fragmented state. Only 20% can be considered intact.
Legal deforestation is the main driver of Cerrado loss. Brazilian law currently permits the clearance of eight out of ten hectares of forest on rural properties in the Cerrado biome while in the Amazon eight out of ten hectares are required to be maintained in their original state.