Covering more than 20% of Brazil, the Cerrado is not nearly as recognized as the Amazon. Although these wooded grasslands once covered an area half the size of Europe, its native habitats and rich biodiversity are being destroyed faster than the neighbouring rainforest.
© Zig KOCH / WWF
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Lurking among the arid grasslands and shrubbery one finds such large mammals as the jaguar (Panthera onca), maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) and marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus).
Taking shelter in many of the region's characteristic twisted and gnarled trees are hundreds of bird species, like the red-legged seriema (Cariama cristata), the critically endangered Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), and many more.
There are also over 10,000 species of plants, almost half of which are found nowhere else in the world.
A desperado cerradoThe Cerrado is one of the most threatened and over-exploited regions in Brazil, second only to the Atlantic Forests in vegetation loss and deforestation.
Unsustainable agricultural activities, particularly soy production and cattle ranching, as well as burning of vegetation for charcoal, continue to pose a major threat to the Cerrado's biodiversity.
Despite its environmental importance, it is one of the least protected regions in Brazil.
WWF in the Cerrado
With less than 3% under legal protection, WWF is working in the Cerrado to protect this unique environment, considered one of the world's biological "hotspots".
Other conservation work included a successful community-focused ecotourism project that helped miners train as tour guides in the region, as well as current work on freshwater and environmental education. WWF is also active in the international Round Table on Responsible Soy, which promotes environmentally responsible production and use of soy, particularly in the Cerrado.
© Fernando ZARUR / WWF
© Hartmut JUNGIUS / WWF
Facts & Figures
- Covering 2 million km2, or 21% of the country's territory, the Cerrado is the second largest vegetation type in Brazil after the Amazon.
- The area is equivalent to the size of England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined.
- More than 1,600 species of mammals, birds and reptiles have been identified in the Cerrado.
- Some of South America's most important rivers - the Amazon, Paraná-Paraguai and São Francisco - begin here.
- Annual rainfall is around 800 to 1600mm per year.
- The capital of Brazil, Brasilia, is located in the heart of the Cerrado.
- Only 20% of the Cerrado's original vegetation remains intact; less than 3% of the area is currently protected by law.