Expansion of agriculture and livestock reduce biodiversity in the Cerrado and Amazon, study finds

21 fevereiro 2022


Most species lost between 25% and 65% of their original distribution area, with Cerrado species being the most impacted

By WWF-Brasil

The increase in deforestation and conversion of native forests, especially for soy production and livestock, has reduced the habitat of most species in the Amazon and Cerrado. This is the conclusion of an analysis, carried out by WWF-Brazil and partners, which assessed 486 species (183 birds, 101 amphibians, 118 mammals and 84 lizards and snakes). Some have lost more than half of their original distribution area. The biggest losses are in the Cerrado.


Some of the endangered species are well known to Brazilians, such as the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), which had more than half of its habitat lost, and the three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus) chosen by FIFA as the official mascot of the FIFA World Cup 2014. In a period of five years, soy cultivation increased 9% within the distribution limits of three-banded armadillo, in the Matopiba region, in the Cerrado.


The reduction of species diversity is often associated with the disappearance of ecosystems and their environmental services. "The impact on species associated with wetlands and gallery forests, such as amphibians, for example, indicates that we are also impacting water resources", the study warns.


Of the total number of species analysed, 136 are endemic, with more than 95% of the distribution area restricted to these biomes. In this case, the average losses were 17% for the Amazon and 35% for the Cerrado, which is worrying since these species do not occur anywhere else.


Cerrado heading for destruction

The Cerrado is the savannah with the greatest biodiversity on the planet, but also one of its most threatened biomes. In the last ten years, the Cerrado has lost 6 million hectares of native vegetation, with about half of this (3.2 million hectares) occurring in the so-called “Matopiba”, which includes parts of the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia.


“In addition to having already lost more than half of its original cover, what remains in the Cerrado is quite fragmented and, in many cases, degraded by the intense action of man, livestock, recurrent fire, invasion of exotic species, among others", explains Mariana Napolitano, Science Manager at WWF-Brazil. “It is essential to change the mindset of companies and the government: the destruction of the ecosystem is unnecessary, as there are already enough areas for the expansion of agribusiness - which is already being harmed with constant crop failures due to environmental degradation.”


According to Frederico Machado, Zero Conversion Leader at WWF-Brazil, “the Brazilian private sector already has good examples of how to increase production without deforesting, and one of them is the Soy Moratorium in the Amazon. A multisectoral agreement that, since its signature, has promoted a drastic reduction in the destruction caused by soy crop”. A similar commitment from the soy sector to the Cerrado is necessary, as well as a greater effort by the livestock sector in not deforesting.


MapBiomas data indicate that the main activities responsible for deforestation and burning in the Cerrado and the Amazon are cattle and soy production. By 2021, agribusiness occupied more than 40% of the original area of the Cerrado (23.7% pasture; 8.9% soy; 7.3% agricultural and pasture mosaic), and 14% of the Amazon (13.5% pasture; 1, 2% soy).


About the study
The study was carried out by the consultancy Gondwana, under the coordination of researcher Cristiano de Campos Nogueira, and aims to present the consequences of the loss of native vegetation for the biodiversity of the Cerrado and the Brazilian Amazon, in addition to offering evidence in order to propose public policies and actions. of conservation of the species of these biomes.


To calculate the impact of habitat loss on biodiversity, the researchers cross-referenced maps of the distribution of each of the species (available on the IUCN website) and land use data for the Cerrado and the Amazon (from MapBiomas).


About WWF-Brazil

WWF-Brazil is a Brazilian NGO that for 25 years has been working collectively with partners from civil society, universities, governments, and companies across the country to combat socio-environmental degradation and defend the lives of people and nature. We are connected in an interdependent network that seeks urgent solutions to the climate emergency. Website: wwwf.org.br/doe