September 15, 2010
Unveiled today in Brasilia, the $200 million initiative establishes the "political framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the most threatened biome in Brazil," according to a statement released by the ministry.
The Action Plan to Prevent and Control Deforestation and Wildfires in the Cerrado Biome (PPCerrado) comes under Brazil's ambitious program to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions 40 percent from a projected 2020 baseline. The plan initially focused on reducing emissions from Amazon deforestation, neglecting emissions from the cerrado, which last year surpassed those from rainforest clearing.
Biofuels driving destruction of Brazilian cerrado
The cerrado, wooded grassland in Brazil that once covered an area half the size of Europe, is fast being transformed into croplands to meet rising demand for soybeans, sugarcane, and cattle. The cerrado is now disappearing more than twice as the rate as the neighboring Amazon rainforest, according to Ricardo Machado, a Brazilian expert on the savanna ecosystem.
"This plan is an evolution of the plan to fight deforestation in the Amazon," Paulo Adario, Amazon Campaign Director for Greenpeace Brazil, told mongabay.com, adding that too few environmental groups are campaigning to protect the cerrado.
"[There is] little pressure to force the government and producers to move in the right direction."
Cerrado species face greatest extinction risk
A recent study showed that species found in the cerrado ecosystem — a woody grassland and forest transition zone — face the highest risk of extinction of Amazonian plants due to forecast loss in habitat. With cerrado habitat declining at more than 3 percent annually, cerrado species face twice the extinction risk as non-cerrado species.
"It is positive there is now a formal concern for cerrado," Smeraldi told mongabay.com via email. "The challenge for the plan is... to cancel and/or revert the existing perverse incentives towards leaking land use change from the Amazon to cerrado."
Smeraldi said the government would need to step up law enforcement in cerrado areas if it hopes to have an impact.
"The enforcement packages should be supported by increase in the collection of fines, which is now around 0.5 percent," he explained. "At this rate, it is almost a guarantee of impunity."
The cerrado has been disappearing at a rate of more than 20,000 hectares per year since 2002. The ecosystem is known to house 10,400 species of plants, nearly half of which are endemic; 935 bird species; 780 freshwater fish species; 113 amphibian species; 180 reptile species; and almost 300 mammal species.