Cerrado (Portuguese pronunciation: [seˈʁadu], [sɛˈʁadu])
is a vast tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil, particularly in the
states of Goiás,
Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso,
Tocantins and Minas
Cerrado biome core areas are the plateaus in the center of
Brazil. The main habitat types of the
Cerrado include: forest savanna,
wooded savanna, park savanna and gramineous-woody savanna. Savanna
wetlands and gallery forests are also included. The second largest
of Brazil's major habitat types, after the Amazonian rainforest, the
Cerrado accounts for a full 21 percent of the country's land area
(extending marginally into
Paraguay and Bolivia).
The first detailed account of the Brazilian cerrados was provided by
Eugenius Warming (1892) in the book Lagoa Santa, in
which he describes the main features of the cerrado vegetation in the
state of Minas Gerais.
Since then vast amounts of research have proved that the
one of the richest of all tropical savanna regions and has high levels
of endemism. Characterized by enormous ranges of plant and animal
World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature named it the biologically
richest savanna in the world, with about 10,000 plant species and 10
endemic bird species. There are nearly 200 species of mammal in the
Cerrado, though only 14 are endemic.
4 History and human population
8 See also
9.1 Further reading
10 External links
The Cerrado's climate is typical of the rather moister savanna regions
of the world, with a semi-humid tropical climate. The
limited to two dominant seasons throughout the year, wet and dry.
Annual temperatures for the
Cerrado average between 22 and 27 °C
and average precipitation between 800–2000 mm for over 90% of
the area. This ecoregion has a very strong dry season during the
southern winter (approx. April–September).
Cerrado vegetation of Brazil.
See also: Category:Flora of the Cerrado.
Cerrado is characterized by unique vegetation types. It is
composed of a shifting mosaic of habitats, with the savanna-like
cerrado itself on well-drained areas between strips of gallery forest
(closed canopy tall forest) which occur along streams. Between
the cerrado and the gallery forest is an area of vegetation known as
the wet campo with distinct up- and downslope borders where tree
growth is inhibited due to wide seasonal fluctuations in the water
The savanna portion of the
Cerrado is heterogeneous in terms of canopy
cover. Goodland (1971) divided the
Cerrado into four categories
ranging from least to most canopy cover: campo sujo (herbaceous layer
with occasional small trees about 3 m tall), campo cerrado (slightly
higher density of trees about 4 m tall on average), cerrado sensu
stricto (orchard-like vegetation with trees about 6 m high) and
cerradao (canopy cover near 50% with general height 9 m).
Probably around 800 species of trees are found in the Cerrado.
Among the most diverse families of trees in the
Cerrado are the
Myrtaceae (43), Melastomataceae
Rubiaceae (30). Much of the
Cerrado is dominated by the
Vochysiaceae (23 species in the Cerrado) due to the abundance of three
species in the genus Qualea. The herbaceous layer usually reaches
about 60 cm in height and is composed mainly of the Poaceae,
Cyperaceae, Leguminosae, Compositae,
Myrtaceae and Rubiaceae. Much
of the vegetation in the gallery forests is similar to nearby
rainforest; however, there are some endemic species found only in the
Cerrado gallery forests.
Soil fertility, fire regime and hydrology are thought to be most
influential in determining
Cerrado soils are
always well-drained and most are oxisols with low pH and low calcium
and magnesium. The amount of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus
has been found to be positively correlated with tree trunk basal area
Cerrado habitats. Much as in other grasslands and savannas,
fire is important in maintaining and shaping the Cerrado's landscape;
many plants in the
Cerrado are fire-adapted, exhibiting characters
like thick corky bark to withstand the heat.
Cerrado vegetation is believed to be ancient, stretching back perhaps
as far in a prototypic form during the
Cretaceous before Africa and
South America separated. A dynamic expansion and contraction
between cerrado and Amazonian rainforest has probably occurred
historically, with expansion of the
Cerrado during glacial periods
like the Pleistocene. These processes and the resulting
fragmentation have probably contributed to the high species richness
both of the
Cerrado and of the Amazonian rainforest.
See also: Category:Fauna of the Cerrado.
The insects of the
Cerrado are relatively understudied. A yearlong
survey of the
Cerrado at one reserve in
Brazil found that the orders
Isoptera accounted for 89.5% of
all captures. The
Cerrado also supports high density of leaf
cutter ant ("saúvas") nests (up to 4000 per hectare) which are also
very diverse. Along with termites, leaf cutter ants are the
primary herbivores of the
Cerrado and play an important role in
consuming and decomposing organic matter, as well as constituting an
important food source to many other animal species. The highest
diversity of galling insects (insects that build galls) in the world
is also found in the Cerrado, with the most species (46) found at the
base of the Serro do Cipó in southeast Brazil.
Cerrado has a high diversity of vertebrates; 150 amphibian
species, 120 reptile species, 837 bird species, and 161 mammal species
have been recorded. Lizard diversity is generally thought to be
relatively low in the
Cerrado compared to other areas like caatinga or
lowland rainforest although one recent study found 57 species in
one cerrado area with the high diversity driven by the availability of
Ameiva ameiva is among the largest lizards found in
Cerrado and is the most important lizard predator where it is
found in the Cerrado. There is a relatively high diversity of
snakes in the
Cerrado (22–61 species, depending on site) with
Colubridae being the richest family. The open nature of the
cerrado vegetation most likely contributes to the high diversity of
snakes. Information about
Cerrado amphibians is extremely limited,
Cerrado probably has a unique assemblage of species with
some endemic to the region.
The frog species
Physalaemus nattereri is found in the open cerrado
but not in adjacent gallery forests.
Most birds found in the
Cerrado breed there although there are some
Austral migrants (breed in temperate
South America and winter in the
Amazon basin) and Nearctic migrants (breed in temperate North America
and winter in the Neotropics) that pass through. Most breeding
birds in the
Cerrado are found in more closed canopy areas like
gallery forests although 27% of the birds breed only in open habitats
and 21% breed in either open or closed habitats. Many of the birds
in the Cerrado, especially those found in closed forest, are related
to species from the Atlantic rainforest and also the Amazon
rainforest. The crowned solitary eagle, hyacinth macaw, toco
toucan, buff-necked ibis, dwarf tinamou, and
Brazilian merganser are
examples of birds found in the Cerrado.
Gallery forests serve as primary habitat for most of the mammals in
the Cerrado, having more water, being protected from fires that sweep
the landscape and having a more highly structured habitat. Eleven
mammal species are endemic to the Cerrado. Notable species include
large herbivores like the
Brazilian tapir and
Pampas deer and large
predators like the maned wolf, cougar, jaguar, giant otter, ocelot and
jaguarundi. Although the diversity is much lower than in the adjacent
Amazon and Atlantic Forest, several species of monkeys are present,
including black-striped capuchin, black howler monkey and black-tufted
History and human population
Taking advantage of the sprouting of the herbaceous stratum that
follows a burning in the Cerrado, the aboriginal inhabitants of these
regions learned to use the fire as a tool, to increase the fodder to
offer to their domesticated animals.
Xavantes, Tapuias, Karajás, Avá-Canoeiros, Krahôs, Xerentes,
Xacriabás were some of the first indigenous peoples occupying
different regions in the Cerrado. Many groups among the indigenous
were nomads and explored the
Cerrado by hunting and collecting. Others
practiced coivara agriculture, an itinerant type of slash-and-burn
agriculture. The mixing of indigenous, quilombola maroon communities,
extractivists, geraizeiros (living in the drier regions), riverbank
dwellers and vazanteiros (who live on floodplains) shaped a diverse
local population that relies heavily on the resources of their
Until the mid-1960s, agricultural activities in the
Cerrado were very
limited, directed mainly at the extensive production of beef cattle
for subsistence of the local market, since cerrado soils are
naturally infertile for agricultural production. After this period,
however, the urban and industrial development of the Southeast Region
has forced agriculture to the Central-West Region. The transfer of the
country's capital to
Brasília has been another focus of attraction of
population to the central region. From 1975 until the beginning of the
1980s, many governmental programs have been launched with the intent
of stimulating the development of the
Cerrado region, through
subsidies for agriculture. As a result, there has been a
significant increase in agricultural and cattle production.
On the other hand, the urban pressure and the rapid establishment of
agricultural activities in the region have been rapidly reducing the
biodiversity of the ecosystems, and the population in the Cerrado
region more than doubled from 1970 to 2010, going from 35.8 million to
Cerrado was thought challenging for agriculture until researchers
at Brazil's agricultural and livestock research agency, Embrapa,
discovered that it could be made fit for industrial crops by
appropriate additions of phosphorus and lime. In the late 1990s,
between 14 million and 16 million tons of lime were being poured on
Brazilian fields each year. The quantity rose to 25 million tons in
2003 and 2004, equalling around five tons of lime per hectare. This
manipulation of the soil allowed for industrial agriculture to grow
exponentially in the area. Researchers also developed tropical
varieties of soybeans, until then a temperate crop, and currently,
Brazil is the world's main soyabeans exporter due to the boom in
animal feed production caused by the global rise in meat
Cerrado region provides more than 70% of the beef cattle
production in the country, being also a major production center of
grains, mainly soya, beans, maize and rice. Large extensions of the
Cerrado are also used for the production of cellulose pulp for the
paper industry, with the cultivation of several species of Eucalyptus
and Pinus, but as a secondary activity. Coffee produced in the Cerrado
is now a major export.
Charcoal production for Brazil's steel industry comes in second to
agriculture in the Cerrado. They actually are quite intertwined.
When land is being cleared to make more land for agriculture, the
tree's trunks and roots are often used in the production of charcoal,
helping to make money for the clearing. The Brazilian steel industry
has traditionally always used the trunks and roots from the Cerrado
for charcoal but now that the steel mills in the state of Minas Gerais
are the world's largest, it has taken a much higher toll on the
Cerrado. However, recently because of the conservation efforts and
the diminishing vegetation in the Cerrado, they now are receiving some
charcoal from the eucalyptus plantations and these efforts are
Cerrado is the second largest biome in
South America and the most
biodiverse savanna in the world. However, it is not currently
recognized by the Brazilian Constitution as a National Heritage. It
is also home to the Guarani Aquifer, stores the largest fresh water
underground reservoirs in South America, and supplies water to a third
of the Amazon river and the largest basins in the continent.
Brazilian agriculturalists and ministers regard it as it has no
conservation value, and the government has protected merely 1.5% of
Cerrado biome in Federal Reserves. By 1994, an estimated
695,000 km2 of cerrado (representing 35% of its area) had
been converted to 'anthropic landscape'. In total, 37.3% of the
Cerrado has already been totally converted to human use, while an
additional 41.4% is used for pasture and charcoal production. The
gallery forests in the region have been among the most heavily
affected. It is estimated that only about 432,814 km2, or 21.3% of the
original vegetation, remains intact today.
During the last 25 years this biome has been increasingly threatened
by industrial single-crop monoculture farming, particularly soybeans,
the unregulated expansion of industrial agriculture, the burning of
vegetation for charcoal and the development of dams to provide
irrigation are drawing criticisms and have been identified as
potential threats to several Brazilian rivers.
This industrial farming of the Cerrado, with the clearing of land for
Eucalyptus and Soya plantation, has grown so much because of various
forms of subsidy, including very generous tax incentives and low
interest loans, this has caused an enormous establishment of highly
mechanized, capital intensive system of agriculture. There is also
a strong agribusiness lobby in
Brazil and in particular, the
production of soybeans in the
Cerrado is influenced by large
corporations such as ADM, Cargill and Bunge, these latter two directly
associated with the mass deforestation of this biome.
One issue with expanding this reserve is that research needs to be
done to choose the location of these reserves because the Cerrado
biome is floristically very heterogeneous and constitutes a biological
mosaic. Teams from the University of Brasília, CPAC and the Royal
Botanic Garden Edinburgh have been collaborating on this project for a
number of years funded by Brazilian, European Community and British
funds. The project has recently been expanded into a major
Anglo-Brazilian initiative, Conservation and Management of the
Biodiversity of the
Cerrado Biome, with UK Overseas Development
Administration funding1. Its aim is to survey the floristic patterns
Cerrado vegetation and to discover representative areas and
List of plants of
Cerrado vegetation of Brazil
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IBGE[permanent dead link]
GOTTSBERGER, G.; SILBERBAUER-GOTTSBERGER, I. (2006): Life in the
Cerrado Reta Verlag, Ulm 2006, ISBN 3-00-017928-3 Volume 1,
ISBN 3-00-017929-1 Volume 2
Cerrado biodiversity Hotspot (Conservation International)
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Cerrado de Altitude
(in Portuguese) EMBRAPA (Brazilian Government): Bioma Cerrado
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cerrado.
Nature Conservancy in
Brazil – The Cerrado
The Biodiversity of the Brazilian Cerrado
Cerrado – Brazilian Government
"Cerrado". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
Guardians of the
Cerrado Photo Story by Peter Caton
Regions and States of Brazil
Rio Grande do Norte
Mato Grosso do Sul
Rio de Janeiro
Rio Grande do Sul
Fernando de Noronha
Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Trindade and Martim Vaz
Coordinates: 14°0′20.5″S 47°41′4.6″W / 14.005694°S
47.684611°W / -14.