5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Tuesday, 18 November 2003: 3:30 PM
Fire in Cerrado and Pantanal—Ecology and Management
Paulo C. Mendes Ramos, Brazilian Environment Institute, Brasília, Brazil
Poster PDF (134.2 kB)
The Portuguese term Cerrado means closed and designates a vast phytogeographic province dominated by an unambiguous savanna like vegetation, once it can only be found in Central Brazil and some fragments in the Southeast, Northeast and in the Amazonia. The Cerrado occupies more than 1,8 million Km2, comprising 22% of the Brazilian territory. The Cerrado holds about 160,000 species of animals and plants, with at least 8.000 species of plants many of them are endemic.

The Pantanal is one of the world's most immense wetlands and rich ecosystems. Extending through Central-West Brazil, eastern Bolivia and northeastern Paraguay, the Pantanal covers some 365,000 km2. Plants from the Cerrado, the Amazon, the Chaco and from the South American grasslands constitute its vegetation complex, with rare endemic species belonging exclusively to the Pantanal. The Pantanal is home to at least 3,500 species of plants, 264 fishes, 652 birds, 102 mammals, 177 reptiles, and 40 amphibians. Levels of endemism are not as pronounced as in the neighboring Cerrado. The Pantanal fauna is mostly derived from the Cerrado, with Amazonian influences. Together with a seasonal dry climate (five months), soil oligotrophy coupled with aluminum toxicity, fire is considered one of the determinants of the existence of the Cerrado. Fire has been part of Cerrado for a long time. Charcoal fragments found in Cerrado soils were dated as 8.600 years. Indigenous population used fire for hunting, for agriculture and for warrior purposes long before the Europeans arrive in South America. Natural fire occurrence is related to lightning, which has been noticed in some protected areas.

The existence of several species that tolerate or is dependent on fire in the Cerrado vegetation is further evidence that fire has been a major ecological factor in this biome. Studies about fire ecological impacts on climate, soils, nutrient cycling, fauna and flora are available, and they are important to guide the understanding of the fire regime that could be accepted for a distinct area or region in the future.

Fire regime has been tremendously affected by the rural activities in Cerrado and Pantanal region, mainly in the last 20 years. Like in many other places of the world the principal causes are related to grazing and agriculture, but other reasons are also of cultural importance, as pest control, poisonous snakes control, religious offerings, etc.

The actual fire regimes in these regions are detrimental to air quality, to species conservation, for the economy and public health and needs a better understanding and a correction on its direction.

The Brazilian Protected Areas suffer frequent and important impacts caused by wildfires. Although many information is now available, the use of prescribed burnings is still of little importance in management plans.

This presentation intend to bring the actual fire regimes on these regions to the discussion and to point out ideas that can help to establish clear objectives for to use or not fire for the rural production purposes and for the conservation of biodiversity and fire management for the protected areas.

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