The morphoclimatic domain of the cerrado extends for approximately 1.9 million km 2 , which means one third of the country’s natural landscapes. It mainly occupies central Brazil and is the second largest forest area in Brazil. However, it retains only 20% of the original coverage.
Its typical savannah soil favors the appearance of dry plants, twisted between sparse shrubs and grasses. The presence of hydrographic basins favors biodiversity; it is estimated that 10,000 plant species, 837 birds and 161 mammals live in this biome.
Its relief is dominated by vast plateaus and the climate is characterized by high temperatures, alternating between a dry and a humid season. Thus, its rivers have a perennial character, but the smaller channels are temporary during the mid-year drought.
The flora tends to evolve in an integrated manner to this climatic seasonality, with a type of formation in which the environments are more open, with a predominance of shrub and herbaceous species coexisting with a smaller number of trees. These have specific characteristics such as: deep roots to capture water from the water table, as well as tortuous stems and trunks due to the constant fires that reach this area and the high acidity of their soils.
It is possible to observe different environments in the Brazilian savannahs: there are clean fields, where there is a predominance of herbaceous species interspersed with dirty fields in which grasses and shrubs are observed. In addition to these, it is possible to glimpse the so-called savanna fields, with shrubs that reach five meters in height and, finally, the savannahs, which even form forests with a large number of trees and a small concentration of herbaceous and shrubby strata. Along the rivers, the greater presence of water gives rise to concentrations of trees that accompany its courses: it is the riparian forest or gallery forest.
The springs in the cerrado
According to Petsinclude, the cerrado domain is of great importance because it houses the springs of the largest Brazilian hydrographic basins. The Amazon and Tocantins-Araguaia basins have 78% of their sources in this area, 48% of the headwaters of the Paraná basin are also in the cerrado and 78% of those that supply the São Francisco basin sprout in this domain.
Since the 1950s, economic pressure has been causing an increasing environmental impact in this area, resulting in its devastation. About two thirds of this area has already been modified by activities such as commercial agriculture, which intensifies soil erosion, its compaction by the use of heavy agricultural machinery and water contamination due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides. The devastation of riparian forests causes an ecological imbalance that affects fauna and flora, in addition to increasing the silting process that can dry out numerous springs and compromise the country’s water dynamics.
With all this biological wealth, the cerrado is the ecosystem that suffers the most from human action, affected mainly by hunting, disorderly occupation, illegal animal trade, water pollution caused by mining activities and silting of rivers. Other alarming data are the advance of extensive livestock and mechanized agriculture for the export of soybeans, corn and cotton, the opening of roads and the multiplication of outbreaks of fire. Currently, less than 2% of the cerrado is protected in parks or reserves.