Ecosystems & wildlife under threat | WWF

Ecosystems & wildlife under threat

The destructive impact of soy agriculture reaches well beyond the Amazon rainforest, with lesser known but equally important ecosystems such as the Cerrado, the Chaco and the Atlantic Forest all under threat.
Rio Pinquen, Manu National Park, Amazon Rainforest, Peru.  
Rio Pinquen, Manu National Park, Amazon Rainforest, Peru.


Covering almost one fourth of Brazil, the Cerrado is a vast mosaic of contrasting landscapes that makes it the most biodiverse savannah region on the planet. But right now the Cerrado is disappearing faster than the Amazon due to the rapid expansion of beef, soy and other crops.

Between 2002 and 2008, average deforestation of the Cerrado ran at a little over 14,000 km2 per year.



  • The Cerrado is home to 60 vulnerable animal species, 20 endangered and 12 critically endangered, including the maned wolf and the giant anteater
  • 44% of its plant species exist nowhere else on Earth
  • Around 300 of its native plant species are used as food, medicine, handicrafts or for trade
  • 9 out of 10 Brazilians use electricity generated by water from Cerrado areas
  • Less than 3% of the total Cerrado area is strictly protected as of 2012


The Guarani Indians initially described this region straddling Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay as the "Gran Chaco", which implies productive hunting grounds.

Today, this is no longer the case in much of the southern Chaco where rampant overgrazing, human population growth and agriculture have decimated the region’s pristine nature.

Fifteen percent of the Chaco is already gone, and up to 85% of it in some sub-regions.


  • Due to its central location in South America, the Chaco harbours migrant birds from both southern and northern regions of South America, as well as migrants from even further north in North America
  • Armadillos reach their peak diversity in the Chaco, with at least 8 species in the Paraguayan Chaco and 10 in the Argentinean Chaco

Atlantic Forest

Stretching along South America's east coast and extending inland towards the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest is one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions. It is also one of the most vulnerable.

As of 2000, less than 8% of the total original area of this region still existed. What remains is highly fragmented. The forests continue to be vulnerable to logging and agricultural expansion, particularly soy production.


  • 60% of Brazilian endangered species depend on the Atlantic Forest to survive
  •  Approximately 40% of its vascular plants and up to 60% of its vertebrates are endemic species, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world
  • New species are continually being found in the Atlantic Forest. In fact, between 1990 and 2006 over a thousand new flowering plants were discovered.
Jaguar captured on film by a camera trap in the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest, Argentina 
	© Fundacion Vida Silvestre
Jaguar captured on film by a camera trap in the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest, Argentina
© Fundacion Vida Silvestre


Spanning 6.7 million km2 (twice the size of India) the Amazon Biome is virtually unrivalled in scale and complexity.

Not only does the Amazon encompass the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world, it also houses at least 10% of the world’s known biodiversity.

But cattle ranching (which is expanding by slash-and-burn agriculture) is paving the way for soy developers, who take over the land and push cattle ranching (and deforestation) towards new pioneer areas.

Actually, soybean cultivation may still be one of the major underlying causes of deforestation in the Legal Amazon.


  • Houses at least 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, including endemic and endangered flora and fauna
  • The Amazon River accounts for 15-16% of the world’s total river discharge into the oceans
  • The Amazon River flows for more than 6,600 km, and with its hundreds of tributaries and streams contains the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world
  • The Amazon has lost at least 17% of its forest cover, and soy production in the Brazilian Amazon tripled from 1990 to 2006.

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