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sociedade em mudar o paradigma de desenvolvimento 
econômico para um modelo que tenha base na con-
ciliação da conservação da natureza com o bem-estar 
social. o Brasil precisa mais decisivamente agarrar a 
oportunidade de se tornar a primeira super-potência 
verde do planeta. Um bom começo seria demonstrar 
que o Cerrado pode seguir sendo um celeiro para o 
mundo, sem mais qualquer desmatamento, só aumen-
tando a produtividade de terras já agricultáveis \u2013 como 
a ciência já demonstrou ser possível (Strassbourg et al., 
2014). Tornar a prática agrícola no Brasil mais susten-
tável poderá ser tanto a causa como a consequência de 
um Cerrado mais bem conservado: a urgência para essa 
transformação não permite mais hesitação.
The Cerrado is a Neotropical savanna that occupies about 2 million km2, or 22% of the Brazilian territory, and is located in the heart 
of South America. Among biomes, the Cerrado is 
second only to Amazon in size and occurs in the states 
of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato 
Grosso do Sul, Tocantins, Bahia, Maranhão, Piauí and 
the Federal District. Additionally, it encroaches into 
the neighboring countries of Bolivia and Paraguay 
(Cavalcanti et al., 2012). This biome, which is home to a 
biological diversity comparable to rainforests such as the 
Amazon and the Atlantic, has suffered severe degradation 
of its habitats and is, therefore, considered one of the 
35 biodiversity hotspots in the world (Mittermeier et 
al., 2011). The Cerrado has more than 12,070 known 
species of flora (Martinelli & Moraes, 2013), of which 
44% are endemic (Scariot et al., 2005), and 645 species 
are critically endangered. This represents more than 
30% of the species that are on the red list of threatened 
species in Brazil (Martinelli & Moraes, 2013). Almost 
all Brazilian herbaceous plants or herbs are considered 
to be from this region (Scariot et al., 2005). As for 
birds, there are 856 species in all, which is about half 
of all Brazilian birds, and 30 are endemic. Among the 
mammals, there are over 200 species, of which 10% are 
restricted to the Cerrado; among the reptiles, there are 
180 species, half the Brazilian national total, and 17% 
are endemic (Cavalcanti et al., 2012). 
Livro vermelho da flora do Brasil \u2013 Plantas raras do Cerrado | 23 
An essential characteristic of the Cerrado is that its 
geography allows it to penetrate into the neighboring 
biomes of the Atlantic Forest, Amazon and Caatinga, 
like arteries that sometimes permit the existence of 
fairly distinct vegetation types side by side. The major 
tributaries on the right bank of the Amazon river, such as 
the Tapajós, Xingu and Tocantins have their headwaters 
in the Cerrado through which they run much of their 
courses, and their riparian forests serve as connecting 
corridors between the lowlands of the Amazon and 
the surrounding highlands. Similarly, the sources of the 
Paraná and Paraguay river basins extend into the central 
area of the Cerrado, allowing species of the Atlantic 
Forest to spread along their courses. The fauna and 
flora of the Caatinga and Cerrado replace themselves 
along the extensive tributary systems of the left bank 
of the São Francisco River, where the dry forests have 
distinct biogeographic affinities (Cavalcanti et al., 2012). 
Furthermore, data from Embrapa Cerrados show that 
the headwaters of the biome contribute to feed eight 
of the 12 Brazilian hydrographic regions as defined 
by the National Water Agency \u2013 ANA. Consequently, 
the importance of the biome to maintain the country\u2019s 
water resources is significant (Lima, 2011).
The main driving force behind deforestation in Latin America and Brazil is the change in land use through agriculture (Magrin et al., 
2014). Much of the agricultural expansion that took 
place in the last decade was focused on the Cerrado, 
which today is considered the main agricultural frontier 
in the country. Besides causing the loss of biodiversity, 
deforestation is also responsible for the largest share of 
greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil (Lapola et al., 2014). 
Since biodiversity is the custodian of vital ecosystems 
that serve agriculture itself, this scenario is paradoxical 
and disturbing. If we consider that Brazil is globally im-
portant for food security \u2013 today it is the world\u2019s second 
largest food producer \u2013 threats of water shortage, disap-
pearance of pollinators and climate change will affect 
not only the biodiversity itself but the whole economy 
of the inhabitants of this biome, now heavily focused on 
agriculture. Projections for the next four decades show 
the largest relative increases in agricultural production 
in the country will be in this region and at the same 
time, the new Forest Code, which is the basis for the 
environmental protection of this expansion, will allow 
further deforestation in the Cerrado (Soares-Filho et al., 
Climate change, partially related to changes in land 
use already mentioned, is another major threat to the 
biome. Under climate change scenarios, the projected 
distribution of endemic bird (Marini et al., 2009) and 
plant species (Smith & Peterson, 2003) indicates a 
shift towards the south and southeast of the country, 
precisely where the highest fragmentation and habitat 
loss has occurred. Furthermore, in the Cerrado, and Latin 
America as a whole, biodiversity conservation is to a large 
extent confined to protected areas (Heller & zavaleta, 
2009). The magnitude of climate change projected for 
this century indicates that many species and types of 
vegetation, which are represented within these protected 
areas today, will be lost.
The creation and implementation of protected areas is still one of the main methods for biodi-versity conservation (Chape et al., 2005). only 
11% of the area covered by the Cerrado are within pro-
tected areas (Martinelli et al., 2013). These protected areas 
have apparently been effective in halting deforestation of 
the biome, but there is still a lack of studies which indi-
cate to what extent the size, location and connectivity 
of these areas can be representative of the biodiversity 
(Carranza et al., 2013; 2014). The goal of the Convention 
on Biological Diversity is to protect 17% of the world\u2019s 
land surface by 2020 (Mittermeier et al., 2010) and so 
ideally each biome in Brazil should follow suit. The 
Cerrado, in this case, has at least a 6% deficit in exten-
sion of its protected areas. Carranza et al. (2013) pointed 
out that conservation investments in the Cerrado were 
on the rise and mentioned that the Sustainable Cerrado 
Initiative and the Action Plan for the Prevention and 
Control of Deforestation and Forest Fires in the Cerrado 
are the present tools to reduce the conversion rate of the 
Cerrado by 40% by 2020, as outlined by the Ministry 
of Environment (MMA, 2011). However, even with 
this, from 2011 until now in 2014, Brazil has created 
few federally protected areas in the country as a whole 
and some areas have even been reduced (Scarano et al., 
2012). Besides the importance that the coverage of these 
protected areas has for the conservation of biodiversity, 
recent studies have also pointed out the importance of 
these areas for the national economy and the productive 
sector. Medeiros et al. (2011), for example, showed that 
80% of the water resources that feed the hydroelectric 
plants come from protected areas. Pavese et al. (2012) de-
scribed the negative impacts that the loss of biodiversity 
generates and how a turnaround of this situation could 
create good business opportunities in Brazil.
Final Considerations
Deforestation of the Cerrado continues despite the recognition of the importance of biodiversity and environmental services for 
the Brazilian economy and despite the fact that the