The Cerrado region of Brazil, comprising 21 percent of the country, is the most extensive woodland-savanna in South America. With a pronounced dry season, it supports a unique array of drought- and fire- adapted plant species and surprising numbers of endemic bird species.
Large mammals such as the giant anteater, giant armadillo, jaguar and maned wolf also still survive here but are competing with the rapid expansion of Brazil's agricultural frontier, which focuses primarily on soy and corn. Ranching is another major threat to the region, as it produces almost 40 million cattle a year.
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.
|Hotspot Original Extent (km²)
|Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²)
|Endemic Plant Species
|Endemic Threatened Birds
|Endemic Threatened Mammals
|Endemic Threatened Amphibians
|Human Population Density (people/km²)
|Area Protected (km²)
|Area Protected (km²) in Categories I-IV*
The Cerrado spreads across 2,031,990 km² of the central Brazilian Plateau. The second largest of Brazil's major biomes, after Amazonia, the hotspot accounts for a full 21 percent of the country's land area (it also extends marginally into Paraguay and Bolivia). The most extensive woodland/savanna region in South America, the Cerrado is also the only hotspot that consists largely of savanna, woodland/savanna and dry forest ecosystems. Within the region, there is a mosaic of different vegetation types, including tree and scrub savanna, grassland with scattered trees, and occasional patches of a dry, closed canopy forest called the cerradão. Gallery forests are found throughout the region, although they are technically not considered part of the typical Cerrado formations.
The hotspot actually receives abundant rainfall (between 1,100 and 1,600 millimeters per year), although this rainfall is concentrated in a six to seven month period between October and April. The rest of the year is characterized by a pronounced dry season, and many plant species in the hotspot are well adapted to drought conditions as a result. Much of the vegetation is also adapted to fire, which is an important part of the ecology of the Cerrado. The flora displays a number of adaptations to fire, including thick bark, leathery leaves, a rapid regeneration capacity and deep root systems. Adaptation to fire maintains a balance between grasses and woody vegetation and assists in nutrient recycling and germination.