The Cerrado (South America)

The Cerrado (South America)

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 16:36
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The Cerrado is the largest savanna region in South America and the largest ecoregion in the Americas. It encompasses central Brazil as well as small portions of Paraguay and Bolivia. Biologically the richest savanna in the world, it contains extraordinary biodiversity.


The Cerrado is the largest savanna region in South America and the largest ecoregion in the Americas. It encompasses central Brazil as well as small portions of northeastern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia.

Biologically, it is the richest savanna in the world. Home to 5% of the planet’s animals and plants, it contains an extraordinary amount of biodiversity.

The Cerrado biome core areas are the plateaus in the center of Brazil. The main habitat types include: forest savanna, wooded savanna, park savanna and gramineous-woody savanna. Savanna wetlands and gallery forests are also included.

The second largest of Brazil's major habitat types, after the Amazon Rainforest, the Cerrado accounts for a full 21% of the country's land area.

Map showing the Cerrado biome

Biome map of Brazil

The climate is typical of the wetter savanna regions of the world, with a semi-humid tropical climate. The Cerrado is limited to two dominant seasons throughout the year, wet and dry.

The Cerrado biome is strategic for the water resources of Brazil. The biome contains the headwaters and the largest portion of South American watersheds (the Paraná-Paraguay, Araguaia-Tocantins, and São Francisco river basins) and the upper catchments of large Amazon tributaries, such as the Xingu and Tapajós.

The Cerrado is characterized by unique vegetation types. It is composed of a shifting mosaic of habitats, with the savanna-like cerrado itself on well-drained areas between strips of gallery forest (closed canopy tall forest) which occur along streams. Over 10,400 species of vascular plants are found here, 50 of which are endemic.

This savanna contains about 200 species of mammal, 860 species of birds, 180 species of reptiles, 150 species of amphibians, 1,200 species of fish and 90 million species of insects. Giant anteaters and armadillos are among its 60 vulnerable animal species, 12 of which are critically endangered.

Of its more than 11,000 plant species, nearly half are found nowhere else on Earth, and local communities rely on many of them for food, medicine, and handicrafts.

At least 800 species of trees are found here. Among the most diverse families of trees are the Leguminosae (153), Malpighiaceae (46), Myrtaceae (43), Melastomataceae (32) and Rubiaceae (30).

Much of the Cerrado is dominated by the Vochysiaceae (23 species) due to the abundance of three species in the genus Qualea.

The herbaceous layer usually reaches about 60 cm (24 in) in height and is composed mainly of the Poaceae, Cyperaceae, Leguminosae, Compositae, Myrtaceae and Rubiaceae.

Much of the vegetation in the gallery forests is similar to the nearby rain forest; however, there are some endemic species found only in the Cerrado gallery forests.

The Cerrado has a high diversity of vertebrates: 150 amphibian species, 120 reptile species, 837 bird species, and 161 mammal species have been recorded.

Gallery forests serve as primary habitat for most of the mammals in the Cerrado because of having more water and being protected from fires that sweep the landscape and having a more highly structured habitat.

Eleven mammal species are endemic to the Cerrado. Notable species include large herbivores like the Brazilian tapir and Pampas deer as well as large predators like the maned wolf, cougar, jaguar, giant otter, ;ocelot and jaguarundi.

Many of the birds in the Cerrado, especially those found in closed forest, are related to species from the Atlantic forest and also the Amazon rainforest. The crowned solitary eagle, hyacinth macaw, toco toucan, buff-necked ibis, dwarf tinamou and Brazilian merganser are examples.

Although the diversity is much lower than in the adjacent Amazon and Atlantic Forest, several species of monkeys are present, including black-striped capuchin, black howler monkey and black-tufted marmoset.