Deforestation in the caatinga grows with advances in agriculture and livestock

The western part of the caatinga, on the border with the cerrado, is suffering from accelerated deforestation. As a result, the semi-arid region loses part of its biome and becomes even hotter. The conclusions are part of a study by MapBiomas, which developed maps of average temperatures between 1985 and 2021 in the region.

why this occurs

The western part of the caatinga has been sought after by agriculture as an expansion zone of Matopiba (area of ​​the cerrado of the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia). This type of vegetation adapted to the dry climate suffers the impacts of fires and degradation in the region of transition to the cerrado.

It’s not just agriculture. There are also mills and livestock. Deforestation occurs with the installation of solar or wind power plants and the increasingly frequent large plantations and cattle raising in the caatinga.

The states most affected by the increase in temperature are Bahia and Piauí, which have the longest border with the cerrado.

This area has been going through more intense burning processes, according to researchers.. Fire is precisely part of the deforestation process to prepare land for other uses.

In addition, we also have vandalism and land disputes that cause fires.”
Galano Duverger, researcher at MapBiomas and the company Geodatin

Caatinga - -

Deforestation increases the water deficit and increases the irregularity of rainfall even more.say scientists.

The biggest fear of specialists is that this, in the long term, will turn the semi-arid region into an arid region.which would cause drastic changes in the caatinga.

In the region, residents are already feeling climate change due to the deforestation process.

People have noticed more heat, the reduction of natural water courses and the increase in poor distribution of rainfall. The rainfall regime has already been greatly influenced in this area.”
Samuel Chagas, from CPT (Comissão Pastoral da Terra) in the backlands of Bahia

Why this search for the caatinga?

Historically, the region was not sought after by large undertakings and intense use of agribusiness. However, this is changing.

The process is taking place because the Matopiba region has been the target of intense demand for agribusiness. Areas are getting more expensive and scarce.

As a result, farmers and businessmen who already operate in the cerrado have sought to use areas on the edge of the biomeswhere you can go about your business.

When we talk about biomes, there is no straight line separating them. There is a transition zone. This deforestation has a strong influence of the cerrado, where there is already an expanding mechanized agribusiness. And it’s much easier to expand to the side than to settle in new areas. [distantes]”.
Washington Rocha, coordinator of MapBiomas Caatinga

Aerial view of the Caatinga in the interior of Bahia - MapBiomas - MapBiomas

Aerial view of the caatinga in the backlands of Bahia

Image: MapBiomas

The fire in the caatinga

The caatinga is a type of biome that only exists in Brazil and is present in 10 states: all from the Northeast plus Minas Gerais.

Over the years, the region has been running increasingly short of water.according to IPCC (UN Climate Panel).

Fire has always been a concern, as in the biome the humidity is lower and it rains less than in the rest of the country. This facilitates and increases the spread of fires.

What the MapBiomas study shows

The caatinga has already had 12.17% of its areas burned at least once. This equals 104,984 km²an area similar to that of the state of Pernambuco (98 thousand km²).

Of these burned areas, the (original) savannah formations account for 73% of the fires.

The months of September, October and November concentrate 77% of the fire.

Fire in the Caatinga region of Bahia - Iberê Périssé/CBHSF - Iberê Périssé/CBHSF

Fire in the caatinga region of Bahia

Image: Iberê Périssé/CBHSF

For Rocha, the increase in temperature in the biome should have an impact on the climate pattern, further reducing the availability of water resources in the medium and long term in the region, including with more dry periods.

The caatinga vegetation is already adapted to conditions of higher temperatures and water scarcity, so it enters the process of ‘hibernation’. But that could change because, with longer drought cycles, it could change from a semi-arid climate to an arid one.”
Washington Rocha, MapBiomas Caatinga

Caatinga is 100% Brazilian biome and unique in the world - Getty Images/iStockphoto - Getty Images/iStockphoto

Caatinga is a 100% Brazilian biome and unique in the world

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Desertification in the semiarid

Over the years, the semi-arid region has already been suffering from a process of desertificationwhich has been punishing soils and threatening an area the size of England.

In the last two decades, we noticed not only droughts, but also this loss of vegetation cover due to deforestation. This has accelerated very quickly over the last five to eight years.”
Humberto Barbosa, Ufal researcher and IPCC collaborator

Research carried out with Europeans seeks to find out how this degradation is occurring in the states, with at least 13% of the area already demonstrably undergoing desertification.

The acceleration of these degradation processes and extreme droughts has made this percentage [de desertificação] increase, and this puts pressure on agricultural activity and affects food production.”
Humberto Barbosa

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