Cerrado deforestation is the biggest since 2016

04 janeiro 2022

The Brazilian Cerrado lost 8,531 km² of native vegetation between August 2020 and July 2021, according to PRODES Cerrado data released on December 31. This is the largest devastated area since 2016 at the second largest Brazilian biome. The increase was 7,9% compared to the previous period, consolidating the rise of the Cerrado's destruction already recorded in 2020. The states that deforested the most were Maranhão (2,281 km²), Tocantins (1,710 km²), Bahia (925 km²) and Goiás (920 km²). Except for the latter, the other states belong to 'Matopiba', the most recent agricultural frontier in the country, which reveals the association between the advance of the production of commodities and environmental destruction.

Future prospects are not encouraging: Brazil risks not having PRODES Cerrado data due to lack of funds. Despite the appeals of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which coordinates the monitoring, there is still no guarantee that the project will receive the necessary resources to keep working in 2022.

The Cerrado is not just the most diverse savanna on the planet. Its territory, which extends over 2 million square kilometers in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, is a plateau with deep soils, so that the biome feeds eight of the country's 12 main hydrographic basins, irrigating 40% of the national territory. Environmental destruction in the biome, combined with deforestation in the Amazon, which contributes to regulating rainfall in central southern Brazil, reduce the flow of water to hydrographic basins. The Cerrado accounts for more than 90% of the flow of the São Francisco Basin and for almost 50% of the entire flow of the Paraná River basin, which supplies the Itaipu hydroelectric plant.

About 50% of Brazilian soy production is concentrated in the biome. There are more than 18 million hectares devoted to a single species in this savannah, which is rich in endemisms, i.e. species that can only be found in the Cerrado. According to data from MapBiomas, the agricultural area in the Cerrado has grown by 460% in the last 36 years and already covers 23 million hectares - an area larger than Great Britain. Those lands, once covered by natural fields, now concentrate near half of the national production of soy and sugarcane, in addition to most of the cotton.