Cerrado is host to over 10,000 species of plants, 45 percent of which are unique to the Cerrado, making it one of the world's most biologically abundant tropical savannas. Located in the Brazilian central plateau covering more than 700,000 square miles, or 22 percent of Brazil, the Cerrado is rolling terrain with deep sandy soils of low fertility. Rainfall is heavy in the summer (November to March), while there is little precipitation the rest of the year. Vegetation consists of grasses, low bushes, and scattered trees. Cerrado has supported a cattle industry since the seventeenth century and is now the most important ranching region of Brazil. It also hosts vast soybean agribusinesses. However, ranching and farming have taken their toll on the Cerrado, contributing to the environmental degradation of this largely unprotected area. In 2001, two protected areas of the Cerrado, Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Cerrado was probably formed and maintained by the action of fire. Since the arrival of humans, it has been exposed to seasonal burning first by the original inhabitants and later by ranchers. Fire combined with overgrazing has caused severe erosion in some areas and the replacement of native grasses by tough invader species that first entered Brazil in explorer and slave ships. Several species of plants and animals in this region are on the endangered list due to habitat pressure.
Cerrado native peoples have also suffered significant population loss over the last century due to the expansion of permanent settlement originating in more populated regions of Brazil. The national capital city of Brasília is located in the middle of Cerrado. The government and the region are often referred to by the term planalto (plateau).
See alsoBrazil, Geography; Indigenous Peoples.
G. Eiten, "Brazilian 'Savannas,'" and L. M. Coutinho, "Ecological Effect of Fire in Brazilian Cerrado," in Ecology of Tropical Savannas, edited by B. J. Huntley and B. H. Walker (1982), pp. 25-47, 273-291.
Kurt Hueck, "A primitividade dos 'campos cerrados' brasileiros e novas observações em seu limite meridional," in Boletim Geográfico (Rio de Janeiro) 31, no. 230 (1972): 215-225.
Lindalvo Bezerra Dos Santos, "Campo cerrado," in Tipos e aspectos do Brasil, 10th ed. (1975), pp. 469-470.
G. Sarmiento, "The Savannas of Tropical America," in Tropical Savannas, edited by François Bourlière (1983), pp. 245-288.
Oliveira, Paulo S., and Robert J. Marquis. The Cerrados of Brazil: Ecology and Natural History of a Neotropical Savanna (2002).