The Tragedy of the Cerrado

Were you aware? The heart of South American biomes is at risk.

The Cerrado is one of the oldest ecosystems in the world, a savanna far richer than its African counterpart, with a massive area half the size of Europe just below the Amazon rainforest. It holds the springs to three of the major rivers in South America and holds the second largest freshwater reservoir in the world.

Its vegetation forms an “inverted forest” – trees with deep underground roots, which allow for the rainfall coming from the Amazon forest to enter the ground, be held within the environment, and feed the water tables, which in turn feed rivers that will flow to the Amazon. Without the trees, rainfall cannot be returned to those rivers, as it erodes and compacts the soil, evaporating fast, and preventing the regular Amazon rain cycle coming to and fro the Cerrado. The only thing holding this water in place is the remaining Cerrado vegetation, currently at only a fifth of its original area.

Less than a tenth of it is protected, and for the last 15 years, it has been deforested 5 times faster than the Amazon. This is being documented by a number of international articles in Nature magazine, The NY Times, The Washington Post, institutions such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the WWF, Mighty Earth, and countless other respectable sources. This deforestation is already showing its ugly head in Midwestern Brazil, with over a thousand cities facing major water shortage issues, all of them dependent on the Cerrado’s water resources.

If it collapses, the Amazon rainforest collapses in less than 30 years. If the Amazon collapses, we are in serious trouble regarding climate change.


Footage: Mighty Earth
Music: Aurora – Life on Mars (Bowie)