The Tragedy of the Cerrado Deforestation

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. Just south of the Amazon rainforest, it once sprawled over an area half the size of Europe. It holds the springs to three of the major rivers in South America and holds the second largest freshwater reservoir in the world.

Its trees allow for the rainfall coming from the Amazon forest to be stored and slowly feed the water tables through deep-rooted trees forming an “inverted forest”. This, in turn, feeds watersheds that will flow back to the Amazon. Without trees, rainfall erodes and compacts the soil instead, evaporating fast, and preventing the regular rain cycle to happen. The only thing holding this cycle in place is the remaining Cerrado vegetation. Unfortunately, only a tenth of it is protected and currently is at only 20% of its original area.

The Cerrado deforestation has been 5 times faster than the Amazon for the last 15 years. 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, Mongabay, and countless other respectable sources has been documenting this process, but it just keeps going.

Deforestation is already showing its ugly head in Midwestern Brazil. Currently, over a thousand cities face major water shortage issues. All of them related are to the Cerrado’s now erratic water cycle.

If the Cerrado collapses, the Amazon rainforest collapses in less than 30 years. If the Amazon collapses, the domino effect will put us in serious trouble regarding climate change.


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