quarta-feira, 25 de julho de 2018

Brazilian rupestrian grasslands suffer dangerous threat and represent a critical conservation agenda

Are forests the richest areas in terms of biodiversity and deserve all the attention and priority for conservation programs and sustainable use? The answer is: not necessarily...

In Brazil, researchers from UFMG - Federal University of Minas Gerais, Unesp-Rio Claro and Stanford University warn about the serious threats to the country’s rupestrian grasslands (photo), which are ancient and mega diverse vegetational complexes, harbouring more than 5000 plant species and one of the highest levels of endemic species in the world. In Brazilian soil, this unique ecosystem occupies an area of ​​about 83000 km2 in quartzite and iron mountaintops of Minas Gerais and Bahia states, most of which are located in the Espinhaço mountain range.

According to the scientific study "The deadly route of collapse and the uncertain fate of Brazilian rupestrian grasslands", released in May, if land use forms remain unsustainable and considering the effects of ongoing climate change, the prediction is the loss of up to 82% of this ecosystem by 2070. This will impact ecosystem services in a regional scale, including water supply and food security, and will potentially affect more than 50 million people in Brazil.

"Mining is one of the activities that causes negative impacts. Others are badly managed and planned road building, biological invasion, urban sprawl, and the complete inability of public environmental agencies to monitor and act due to lack of information about this ecosystem. Unrestrained tourism and forestry are other vectors of great relevance. Everything has synergy and collaborates to a route of collapse”, explains Geraldo Wilson Fernandes, one of the authors of the study.

Cascading effects on biodiversity

Like forested areas, rupestrian grasslands suffer the cascading effects on biodiversity when there is uncontrolled human activity. "Species do not exist alone and many depend on others for their survival," warns Fernandes. "The withdrawal of vital species results in a cascade of events that can lead to the collapse of the entire ecosystem and the change in the production of natural resources."

One of the important points highlighted by the study, which includes data collected for about 30 years, is to consider the sustainable use and conservation of rupestrian grasslands respecting their characteristics. That is, do not treat them like they were forests.

Rupestrian grasslands are millions of years old and there are no soil conditions to keep a forest on stone. There is a harmony between their natural forces that allows the survival of certain species. To remove them and to plant trees, according to Fernandes, only serves economic interests.

"More than creating conservation parks, our plan is to establish with the society and decision makers a pact proposal for the rational use of the rupestrian grasslands, based on scientific knowledge, and to work together with all the stakeholders. Otherwise, political measures may not be effective”, concludes the researcher.

Brazilian rupestrian grasslands in images - Photos by Ricardo Solar

*Environmental journalist (Ambiente-se Comunicação Socioambiental) and Communications Manager of GAP Project International

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