Tag Archives: biodiversity

THE CERRADOS (SAVANNAS) OF BRAZIL

“The Cerrado Biome is one of the world’s principal centers of biodiversity, ranked by Myers et al. (2000) as among 25 global hotspots of absolute importance for conservatin.” (Ratter, Bridgewater and Ribeiro, Chapter 2, p. 34 in Neotropical Savannas and Seasonally Dry Forests, edited by R.T. Pennington et al., 2006 – see bibliography below)

This biodiversity is disappearing fast . Much of it may already be lost forever.

After presenting in my last post some aspects of the destruction of the largest biome in Brazil, the Amazon Rainforest, I am presenting the second largest biome, the cerrado (Brazilian savannas), a ancient biome dating from the Pliocene and Pleistocene, rich in biodiversity, which is in a much worse state of destruction than the Amazon rainforest: more than 50% are irreversibly destroyed by the agribusiness (Professor Altair Sales Barbosa – text in Portuguese – translation by Google Translator is good) . As opposed to my previous post which shows the destruction of the Amazon rainforest , I will show selected facies of the cerrado in its natural state where it has been preserved, mainly in the chapadas (mountainous plateaus) where agricultural machinery cannot be used.

Cerrado “sensu stricto”.
An open woodland letting through enough light to allow the growth of a grass ground cover.

Wooded savanna (called cerrado in Brazil), end of dry season. Minas Gerais - Bahia State, Brazil. Stemless palm is Attalea geraensis.

Wooded savanna (called cerrado in Brazil), end of dry season. Minas Gerais – Bahia State, Brazil. Stemless palm is Attalea geraensis.

Cerrado (savanna or wooded savanna) showing trees with contorted trunks and branches and thick bark which acts as a protection to fire. Brazilian Highlands, Brazilian Shield, northern Goias, Brazil.

Cerrado (savanna or wooded savanna) showing trees with contorted trunks and branches and thick bark which acts as a protection to fire. Brazilian Highlands, Brazilian Shield, northern Goias, Brazil.

Vereda, a treeless grassland on seasonally waterlogged soil.

Two different ecosystems in savanna (cerrado) biome: vereda, a treeless grassland on seasonally waterlogged soil, with buriti palm (Mauritia flexuosa) along small stream; and campos rupestres, saxicolous vegetation on hilly rock outcrop. Brazilian Highlands, Goiás State, Brazil

Two different ecosystems in savanna (cerrado) biome: vereda, a treeless grassland on seasonally waterlogged soil, with buriti palm (Mauritia flexuosa) along small stream; and campos rupestres, saxicolous vegetation on hilly rock outcrop. Brazilian Highlands, Goiás State, Brazil

Vereda, a treeless grassland ecosystem on semi-waterlogged soil with stands of buriti palms (Mauritia flexuosa) in permanently wet spots. Savanna biome (called cerrado in Brazil). Grande Sertão Veredas National Park (or proximity), Minas Gerais or Bahia State, Brazil.

Vereda, a treeless grassland ecosystem on semi-waterlogged soil with stands of buriti palms (Mauritia flexuosa) in permanently wet spots. Savanna biome (called cerrado in Brazil). Grande Sertão Veredas National Park (or proximity), Minas Gerais or Bahia State, Brazil.

Forest galleries.

Savanna (cerrado) biome, Brazilian Highlands, Goiás State, Brazil: Mimosa foliolosa (Fabaceae - Leguminosae, Mimosoideae) in forest gallery of Rio Claro, in the watershed of Rio Tocantins.

Savanna (cerrado) biome, Brazilian Highlands, Goiás State, Brazil: Mimosa foliolosa (Fabaceae – Leguminosae, Mimosoideae) in forest gallery of Rio Claro, in the watershed of Rio Tocantins.

Rio Claro and its forest gallery, river in watershed or drainage basin of rio Tocantins in Brazilian Highlands (panalto Brasileiro), northern Goiás State, Brazil

Rio Claro and its forest gallery, river in watershed or drainage basin of rio Tocantins in Brazilian Highlands (panalto Brasileiro), northern Goiás State, Brazil

Tibouchina candolleana (Melastomataceae) with buriti palm (Mauritia flexuosa) in background, at fringe of forest gallery, Brazil Highlands (Brazilian shield, Planalto Brasileiro), Goias State, Brazil.

Tibouchina candolleana (Melastomataceae) with buriti palm (Mauritia flexuosa) in background, at fringe of forest gallery, Brazil Highlands (Brazilian shield, Planalto Brasileiro), Goias State, Brazil.

Vegetation on rock outcrops (saxicolous vegetation)  –  Campos Rupestres

Savanna (cerrado) biome, Brazilian Highlands, Goiás State, Brazil: vegetation on rock outcrop (saxicolous vegetation): Cactus: Pilosocereus machrisii (family Cactaceae).

Savanna (cerrado) biome, Brazilian Highlands, Goiás State, Brazil: vegetation on rock outcrop (saxicolous vegetation): Cactus: Pilosocereus machrisii (family Cactaceae).

Contorted tree, saxicolous vegetation (growing among rocks) on Pre-Cambrian rock outcrop in Brazilian Highlands, Goias State, Brazil

Contorted tree, saxicolous vegetation (growing among rocks) on Pre-Cambrian rock outcrop in Brazilian Highlands, Goias State, Brazil

Cerrado (brazilian savanna) biome: contorted tree, shrub and grass in campos rupestres (saxicolous vegetation, vegetation on rocks) ecosystem on rock outcrop: Goias, Brazilian Highlands (Brazilian shield, Planalto brasileiro), Brazil

Cerrado (brazilian savanna) biome: contorted tree, shrub and grass in campos rupestres (saxicolous vegetation, vegetation on rocks) ecosystem on rock outcrop: Goias, Brazilian Highlands (Brazilian shield, Planalto brasileiro), Brazil

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Links

The Cerrados of Brazil                    (book – download) by Paulo S. Oliveira, Robert J. Marquis   – Columbia University Press 2002
Little information is available in English on the savannas of South America. This book, with chapters written by various scientists, starts filling this gap with an ecological perspective, from the soils to the plant and animal communities to the action of fire, the human occupation and conservation.

Contribution to the discussions on the origin of the cerrado biome: Brazilian savanna
  Braz. J. Biol. vol.70 no.1 São Carlos Feb. 2010
From the abstract: “Fire, as well as acid and dystrophic soils, would be factors involved in the selection of savanna species throughout climatic events, during the Tertiary and the Quaternary, e.g. Pliocene and Pleistocene.” A .pdf of the full article can be downloaded from this link.

Com Cerrado extinto água no Brasil secará
by Professor Altair Sales Barbosa of PUC de Goiás  –  Revista Ecológica  06/10/2014
Discussion of the irreversible damages on biodiversity, on water supply, on people by the irresponsible de-forestation of the cerrado by agribusiness. In Portuguese, but Google Translator gives a pretty accurate English version.

Bibliography

(more books have certainly been published – I may add them at a later date, as I become aware of them)

Neotropical Savannas and Seasonnally Dry Forests     Plant Diversity, Biogeography, and Conservation – Edited by R. Toby Pennington, Gwilym P. Lewis, James A. Ratter –  CRC Press, Taylor & Francis, 2006.
Not for the faint-hearted… 20 chapters, written by 59 specialists. Biodiversity, phytogeography, biogeographical history, population genetics, floristic relationships, conservation, parallels with African savannas, etc…

CERRADO ecologia e caracterização
Editores técnicos: Ludmilla Moura de Souza Aguiar, Amabilio José Aires de Camargo – Embrapa Informação Tecnlógica, 2004.
Chapters by various authors over conclusions of research at the EMBRAPA (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisas Agropecuárias). Covers a wide range of topics with emphasis on biodiversity, economic aspects. human impact and environment preservation. A useful complement in Portuguese to “The Cerrados of Brazil ” described above in the Links section.

The Ecology of Neotropical Savannas, by Guillermo Sarmiento, translated by Otto Solbrig – Harvard University Press 1984.
An early study of South American savannas, based primarily on research in Venezuela. Emphasis on seasonality, nutrient-poor soils.

 

Photo identification books

100 Árvores do Cerrado
by Manoel Claudio da Silva Junior
Field guide to 100 trees of the Brazilian savannas, each species being illustrated by photographs of the flowers, leaves, bark etc to help identification.

+100 Árvores do Cerrado – Matas de Galeria
*by Manoel Claudio da Silva Junior, Benedito Alisio da Silva Pereira
Continuation of the previous field guide, concentrating on forest galleries species.

CERRADO, espécies vegetais úteis
by Semíramis Pedrosa de Almeida, Carolyn Elinore B. Proença, Sueli
Matiko Sano, José Felípe Ribeiro
Many plants of the savannas of the Brazilian Highlands are used by the
local population, as food, medicines, or manufacturing materials. The
popular knowledge of plants is extensive. This book gives a glimpse of
that knowledge, with more than 400 pages of botanical descriptions and
uses, including ecological aspects, chemical analysis etc, with one
photograph for each species.

Flores e Frutos do Cerrado                                                                                                     
Flowers and Fruits of the Cerrado
by Carolyn C. Proença, Rafael S. Oliveira, Ana Palmira Silva
A nice book to identify flowers. Short introduction both in Portuguese and in English; also a Portuguese-English glossary. Numerous photographs. A nice touch is that the flowers are grouped by color, which makes the use easy,

Flores da Serra da Calçada
by Leda Afonso Martens
Another abundantly illustrated book with photographs of  the flora of a
cerrado region of the State of Minas Gerais. It covers not only flowering
plants (angiosperms), but also some ferns and lichens, and scenics of
the region, including anthropic degradation. A wonderful book. 

THE MURDER OF THE RAINFOREST

In South America, in Africa, in Asia the rainforest is destroyed in the name of development. A rich biodiversity is lost and local people are expelled from their traditional lands.

Biodiversity in Brazil…

Aerial view of Jari River, northern tributary of the Amazon, coming down from Guyana Highlands showing rapids and lush rainforest.

Aerial view of Jari River, northern tributary of the Amazon, coming down from Guyana Highlands showing rapids and lush rainforest.

… in Ivory Coast and in Peru

Tropical Rain Forest in Amazon Region, Dept. Loreto, Peru, South America; palm is Attalea sp.

Tropical Rain Forest in Amazon Region, Dept. Loreto, Peru, South America; palm is Attalea sp. CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

West Africa, rainforest in southwest Ivory Coast, along Hana River (a tributary of the Cavally River). Blooming climbing palm is Laccosperma secundiflorum (Arecaceae).

West Africa, rainforest in southwest Ivory Coast, along Hana River (a tributary of the Cavally River). Blooming climbing palm is Laccosperma secundiflorum (Arecaceae). CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

But the greed brought by globalization, the market forces, agribusiness (cattle ranching, soybean, sugarcane, cotton…, logging, mining, hydroelectric power dams sees more value in the destruction of the forest.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest:

Slash-and-burn agriculture: forest being burned for cultivation in Amazon region, Acre, Brazil

Slash-and-burn agriculture: forest being burned for cultivation in Amazon region, Acre, Brazil CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

Aerial of rainforest being burned to clear land for cattle ranching, Brazil, Para, Amazon region.

Aerial of rainforest being burned to clear land for cattle ranching, Brazil, Para, Amazon region. CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

  What’s left…

Aerial of smoldering remains of Amazon rainforest burned for clearing for cattle ranching, Para, Brazil

Aerial of smoldering remains of Amazon rainforest burned for clearing for cattle ranching, Para, Brazil

Logs are floated in rafts or transported on boats on the Amazon.

Brazil, Amazon region, Para State. Deforestation: raft of logs on lower Amazon river.

Brazil, Amazon region, Para State. Deforestation: raft of logs on lower Amazon river.

Deforestation: barge loaded with logs in Amazon estuary, Marajo Island, Para, Brazil

Deforestation: barge loaded with logs in Amazon estuary, Marajo Island, Para, Brazil

Boards drying in the sun at sawmill.

Boards drying in the sun at sawmill in Amazon rainforest at Marajo Island in Amazon estuary, Para, Brazil.

Boards drying in the sun at sawmill in Amazon rainforest at Marajo Island in Amazon estuary, Para, Brazil.

Some wood is cut in local sawmills for export.

Boards packed for export at sawmill at Marajo Island in Amazon estuary, Brazil

Boards packed for export at sawmill at Marajo Island in Amazon estuary, Brazil

Tucurui dam on Tocantins River in Amazon rainforest.

Brazil, Para State. Tucurui dam on Tocantins River in Amazon region.

Brazil, Para State. Tucurui dam on Tocantins River in Amazon region. CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

The Brazilian government started building dams on several important rivers, displacing populations and disturbing the migration and reproduction of fish.

Carajás iron mine in Amazon rainforest.

Brazil. Para State, Carajas iron mine in Amazon rainforest.

Brazil. Para State, Carajas iron mine in Amazon rainforest. CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

A railroad was built to carry iron ore from the Carajas mine in the Amazon to a port on the Atlantic coast, opening the way for cattle ranchers, illegal loggers etc, allowing them to invade land of the Awá indigenous people, previously uncontacted.

Road through deforested area, with mosaic of pasture, agricultural land and remnant islands of rainforest.

Deforestation: aerial of road going through former rainforest cleared for agriculture and cattle raising, Amazon rainforest, Para State, Brazil

Deforestation: aerial of road going through former rainforest cleared for agriculture and cattle raising, Amazon rainforest, Para State, Brazil

Only tree stumps are left on the pasture.

Cattle grazing in pasture formed by cleared rainforest land with tree stumps left, Amazon region, Pará, Brazil.

Cattle grazing in pasture formed by cleared rainforest land with tree stumps left, Amazon region, Pará, Brazil.

Unloading truck at sawmill at Pucallpa, Peru..

Logs being unloaded from truck at sawmill in Pucallpa on Ucayali River, Peru.

Logs being unloaded from truck at sawmill in Pucallpa on Ucayali River, Peru.

Sawmill at Pucallpa, Peru.

Worker carrying cut wood at sawmill in Pucallpa on Ucayali River, Peru

Worker carrying cut wood at sawmill in Pucallpa on Ucayali River, Peru

Deforestation in Africa: Logging trucks in Ivory Coast…

Deforestation: trucks loaded with logs in western Ivory Coast, Africa.

Deforestation: trucks loaded with logs in western Ivory Coast, Africa.

…and logs at harbor in Gabon.

Deforestation: Timber at harbor at Owendo, Libreville harbor, Gabon, Africa

Deforestation: Timber at harbor at Owendo, Libreville harbor, Gabon, Africa

Back in Brazil: People place their hopes in the supernatural, not aware that the threat of the market economy may change their lives forever, for better or for worse.

Procession by canoe of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao on small river (rio Caraparu) in tropical rainforest in Para State, Brazil

Procession by canoe of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao on small river (rio Caraparu) in tropical rainforest in Para State, Brazil

Will the peace of the Caraparu River remain?

Small river in rainforest, Amazon region, Para State, Brazil

Small river in rainforest, Amazon region, Para State, Brazil

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THE HOTI OF THE GUIANA HIGHLANDS OF VENEZUELA – PART 2: SUBSISTENCE ACTIVITIES: SLASH-AND-BURN AGRICULTURE, HUNTING AND COLLECTING OF WILD FRUIT AND HONEY

(Part 1: setting, house activities) During my 23 stay with the group, part of the time was spent with the whole group at their main house, and part traveling with a couple of families, staying at 7 different locations, including 3 permanent houses, one semi-permanent house and 3 temporary camps; 6 days were devoted to travel of a duration of between one and three hours walking time (roughly one-quarter traveling and three-quarters settled), the rest of the time being spent on subsistence or household activities including resting or leasure; food gathering and horticultural harvest  were the most frequent activities (in number of days the activity was performed), followed by hunting, fishing and travel; horticultural products were most often consumed (21 days: several kind of bananas, especially plantains, were the staple food and were eaten everyday; sweet potatoes were abundant during the last five days while we stayed at two smaller houses next to which were mixed gardens) followed by collecting products (fruit and honey – 18 days) and meat (7 days); fish was an occasional small supplement. **********

Slash-and-burn

Slash-and-burn agriculture as practiced by low-density native populations is not harmful to the environment, provided enough time is given for the forest to grow again (estimated at about 15 years). Is is even considered beneficial, as discarded (or purposely planted) seed of useful species grow to mix into the rejuvenated forest. Venezuela: Indians of Guiana HighlandsA slash-and-burn garden showing remains of burned wood, maize and Xanthosoma sp. The nutrients in the ashes serve as fertilizer.

Left:  Woman harvesting manioc.     Right:  Woman and daughter harvesting sweet  potatoes.

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Girl picking cotton in slash-and-burn garden. JNGX0356_lighter-106-aug-3_curv-contr_yellows-hue-minus-5_sat13_lightness8lev-red112-bl096_625px

Return from the slash-and-burn garden with cotton, sweet potatoes and firewood.

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana Highlands

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana HighlandsMen harvesting bananas from a stand of possibly feral bananas, of various varieties, growing together with the similar-looking false banana, Phenakospermum sp.; one of them is making a palm leaf basket to carry them.

Venezuela: Indians of Guiana HighlandsMan harvesting tobacco leaves. The leaves are dried, crushed and mixed with ashes. Water is added to make a paste; this paste is placed under the lower lip (I tried it, and I became immediately dizzy; but I don´t smoke, so my brain is not used to nicotine).

Native cultivars show a rich biodiversity. Below are some samples of corn cultivated by the Hoti; each one had its specific texture and taste. Venezuela: Indians of Guiana Highlands

Traveling

Subsistence activities, be it slash-and burn agriculture, hunting or collecting, involve traveling as each group may have more than one house and dispersed slash-and-burn gardens, and the group may have to move in the forest where a species of fruit is ripe, or where animals like peccaries are known to be at a particular time of the year. JNGX0365_sat4_sharp-03-150_625px_COPYRIGHT_bl-pt-12_FLAT-LAST_lev-minus satMan building camp, tying saplings with vines.

Camp in forest,  covered with the banana-like leaves of Phenakospermum sp. JNGX0793_sat-7_FADE MEDIAN_shar-03-150_625px_COPYR_MOVE MAN_yellow-hue-plus9_darken right-corner

Hunting

Although of irregular yield, hunting was the most important source of animal protein. It is often a day long activity. During my stay with the Hoti the animals killed were: two young peccaries, one small caiman, two anteaters (one adult and one young), one trumpeter (Psophia crepitans) and one agouti.

JNGX0795_Aug-14_SHARP-02-254_625px_COPYR_lev-bl-106_LAST_FLAT3_YOUNG MAN LIGHTER_FADE MEDIAN-6_8bitYoung hunter with spear

The men had left early one morning. I wasn´t ready to follow them, so I went to the forest on my own photograph nature. I was busy taking photographs of a red passion flower when this man, who was the informal leader of the group  and who had become my guide, came to get me. JNGX0796_RED096_625px_sharp-02-254_COPYRIGHT_8ibit_CLEANED_NEW_LAYER3We walked some distance until we reached two dead anteaters, killed with spears. He pointed to my camera and to the dead anteaters, making me understand that I should take pictures of them. He had never seen photographs before, but he understood that I was making a record of their activities. I also was happy to have a proof that I had been accepted by the group. I figured that, summing the time between the place where the two anteaters laid and the house, then the house and, following my tracks, the place where I was taking pictures, then the time back to the anteaters, he must have spent about 40 minutes (maybe a little less as he may have walked fast).   JNGX0561_BLUE-104_sharp03-150_625px_COPYR_blue087_RGB-5_sat-18_range11Elder cutting up meat of anteater ; the meat will be shared between members of the group.

JNGX0797_aug-14_sharp-02-266_625px_COPYR_8bit_curves-54-194_lev-114_chrom-aberrMan hunting with blowgun, with bamboo quiver under his arm. Darts are poisoned by curare traded from the Eñepa (Panare). He is looking up at a bird in the canopy.

Food gathering / collecting

Food gathering was also important, although not quite as important as horticulture. It takes more time and demands more work, first in locating useful products (wild fruits and honey), then in collecting them. Often a tree had to be felled; picking thousands of olive-sized lute fruit from felled trees was a time-consuming process. JNGX0802_sharp-02-279_625px_COPYR_LAST_FLATMan cutting tree on scaffolding, to save work cutting the tree higher, where the trunk is narrower, for collecting wild fruit or honey. The gap left by the fall of the tree is small enough for the forest to recover quickly; in case of fruit, some fruit will have been left on the ground allowing for the same species to regenerate.

Collecting honey from hole carved in felled tree to reach beehive. A hole is carved in the felled trunk; the honey is squeezed in a calabash, and the other parts of the beehive, including wax, are wrapped in a leaf of a plant of the Marantaceae family.

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These small bees were not stinging, but very annoying because they stuck in the hair. Eating honey was always a feast! Some would be taken to the house, and diluted in water to make a beverage.

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Venezuela, Guiana HIghlands, Hoti (Hodi) Indians.Young man collecting fruit of  Dacryodes sp. (Burseraceae) from felled tree.                         Olive-sized forest fruit Dacryodes sp. (Burseraceae). They are eaten after light cooking. JNGX0360_Aug-16_625px_FLAT_lev_sharp_COPYRIGHT_NikonScan327

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