CONNECTING THE CERRADO

In 2018, besides Instituto Araguaia´s Canto do Obrieni Reserve (RPPN), we identified 5 areas as candidate sites for Cerrado protection. Four are on private lands, one belongs to the state government, and one is communally held by the inhabitants of a rural resettlement project. They all contain uncleared native Cerrado habitat and have good connectivity with each other and with Cantão Park. Together with connectivity paths that we identified between them using legally protected strips along watercourses, these 7 areas (RPPN Canto do Obrieni and the other 6) comprise what we have called the Cantão-Cerrado Corridor, connecting a representative sample of Cerrado habitat to the Amazon ecosystem of Cantão Park, and thus protecting the full spectrum of the ecotone.

In 2018, besides Instituto Araguaia´s Canto do Obrieni Reserve (RPPN), we identified 5 areas as candidate sites for Cerrado protection. Four are on private lands, one belongs to the state government, and one is communally held by the inhabitants of a rural resettlement project. They all contain uncleared native Cerrado habitat and have good connectivity with each other and with Cantão Park. Together with connectivity paths that we identified between them using legally protected strips along watercourses, these 7 areas (RPPN Canto do Obrieni and the other 6) comprise what we have called the Cantão-Cerrado Corridor, connecting a representative sample of Cerrado habitat to the Amazon ecosystem of Cantão Park, and thus protecting the full spectrum of the ecotone.

In Cantão the Cerrado of Central Brazil gives way to the Amazon Forest forming an abrupt ecotone

Goal: To protect at least 2000 hectares (4,942 acres) of native Cerrado in a network of interconnected private reserves within 20 km of Cantão Park.

The Cerrado biome of Central Brazil is the world’s most biodiverse tropical savanna, with over 11 thousand species of plants, 837 species of birds, 1200 species of fish, and very high endemism of amphibians and reptiles. Due to its high agricultural potential, it is also one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world, with 80% of its original area already gone and only 3% in protected areas, almost all of them located in highlands and drier regions, unsuited for agriculture.

The Cerrado is the most biodiverse savannah in the world

The Cerrado is the most biodiverse savannah in the world

The Cantão ecosystem in the Araguaia valley of Central Brazil is the world’s richest ecotone. Here, rich, moist lowland Cerrado comes into direct contact with Amazonian flooded forest, resulting in a steep species gradient with very high biodiversity. Unfortunately, only the Amazonian side of this amazing ecotone is protected, within Cantão State Park and Araguaia National Park. The Cerrado side all consists of private lands which are quickly being deforested. Brazil’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, and the vast majority of Brazil’s annual harvest (as well as most of the beef production) comes from the Cerrado, so the government is reluctant to intervene. High land costs make the establishment of public PAs unfeasible, making federally recognized private reserves (RPPNs) the only alternative. Land prices in the region were about half of current prices before the first big soybean producers arrived around 2012 and put in the grain storage and transport infrastructure that made it viable for smaller ranches. However, now prices for land where soybeans can be grown is skyrocketing everywhere in the Cerrado, even where there is still no infrastructure.

To start off, Instituto Araguaia has directly purchased 240 hectares (about 618 acres) of prime Cerrado land to create one of the core areas of a private reserve (RPPN), and is working with landowners to establish more RPPNs on private ranches and in rural resettlement projects. A species survey and habitat map is being carried out by Instituto Araguaia’s field team, supported by a team of Biology specialists and a GIS technician, to ensure that all RPPNs in the network have adequate connectivity with each other and with Cantão Park, with most of the bordering the park. Instituto Araguaia has been studying wildlife movements across the ecotone since 2010, using camera traps and other means. Most larger Cerrado species can and do use the park’s forest ecosystems to disperse, forage, and even reside for much of the year.

Several species, like the Giant Anteater, depend on the Cerrado to survive

Several species, like the Giant Anteater, depend on the Cerrado to survive

Several animals migrate from the Cerrado into Cantao Park looking for water and shelter from fires during the dry season, and from Cantao into the Cerrado looking for dry grounds during the wet season.

Several animals migrate from the Cerrado into Cantao Park looking for water and shelter from fires during the dry season, and from Cantao into the Cerrado looking for dry grounds during the wet season.