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Podcast: Is Brazil’s biodiverse savanna getting the attention it deserves, finally?

  • On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast we look at how the largest and most biodiverse tropical savanna on Earth, Brazil’s Cerrado, may finally be getting the conservation attention it needs.
  • We’re joined by Mariana Siqueira, a landscape architect who’s helping to find and propagate the Cerrado’s natural plant life, and is collaborating with ecologists researching the best way to restore the savanna habitat.
  • Also appearing on the show is Arnaud Desbiez, founder and president of Brazilian NGO ICAS, who describes the Cerrado as an important part of the Brazilian range for the giant armadillo, a species whose conservation could play an important role in protecting what’s left of the Cerrado’s vast biodiversity.

Today we look at efforts to preserve and restore the biodiversity of the Cerrado in Brazil, the world’s largest and most biologically-rich tropical savanna.

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Comprising more than 20% of Brazil’s land area, the Cerrado is the second-largest biome in the country, after the vast Amazon rainforest. And with more than 10,000 species of plants, 200 species of mammals (14 of which are endemic), 860 species of birds (10 of which are endemic), 1,200 species of fish, more than 300 species of reptiles and amphibians, and millions of insects, the Cerrado is considered to be the most biodiverse tropical savanna in the world. But it hasn’t received nearly as much attention as the Amazon over the past several decades, even as agriculture and cattle ranching have expanded so aggressively in the Cerrado that the habitat is now highly fragmented and only around 20% of its native vegetation remains.

Joining us on the Mongabay Newscast to help us look at how the Cerrado might finally be getting some of the attention it deserves, we welcome Mariana Siqueira, a landscape architect based in Brasilia, the country’s capital city located in the heart of the tropical savanna region. Siqueira discusses her work helping to find and propagate the Cerrado’s natural plant life in collaboration with ecologists who are working to restore the savanna habitat.

We also welcome to the program Arnaud Desbiez, founder and president of Wild Animal Conservation Institute (known by its Portuguese acronym ICAS). One of ICAS’s long-term projects is the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program. Desbiez tells us that the Cerrado is an important part of the Brazilian range for the giant armadillo, the world’s largest armadillo, which is known as an “ecosystem engineer” that provides many benefits to its fellow wildlife species.

But the armadillos’ elusive nature means that there is much we still don’t know about the species. Desbiez tells us about the discoveries he and his colleagues have made regarding them, a unique threat they face in the Cerrado, and why preserving them could play an important role in conserving what’s left of the Cerrado’s biodiversity on a broader scale.

Read more about the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project here at Mongabay, “In search of the ‘forest ghost,’ South America’s cryptic giant armadillo” (09/08/2020), and view all of our recent coverage of the Cerrado here.

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Giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus). Photo courtesy of Giant Armadillo Conservation Program.
The Cerrado landscape. Photo courtesy of Mariana Siqueira.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

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