The Cerrados of Brazil

The Cerrados of Brazil: Ecology and Natural History of a Neotropical Savanna

Paulo S. Oliveira
Robert J. Marquis
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    The Cerrados of Brazil
    Book Description:

    While the imperiled Brazilian rainforest has been the focus of considerable international media attention and conservation efforts, the massive grasslands of Brazil -- known as the cerrados -- which cover roughly a quarter of its land surface and are among the most threatened regions in South America, have received little notice. This book brings together leading researchers on the area to produce the first detailed account in English of the natural history and ecology of the cerrado/savanna ecosystem. Given their extent and threatened status, the richness of their flora and fauna, and the lack of familiarity with their unique ecology at the international level, the cerrados are badly in need of this important and timely work.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50596-3
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Paulo S. Oliveira and Robert J. Marquis
  4. 1 Introduction: Development of Research in the Cerrados
    (pp. 1-10)
    Paulo S. Oliveira and Robert J. Marquis

    The first detailed account of the Brazilian cerrados was provided by Danish botanist Eugene Warming (1892) in the book Lagoa Santa, in which he describes the main features of the cerrado vegetation in the state of Minas Gerais. Since the publication of Warming’s book a number of descriptive studies from several cerrado regions in Brazil have been published. The vast majority of this literature is in Portuguese and oriented mostly toward botanical aspects of the cerrado. The studies can be roughly categorized into two major groups: (1) Surveys of woody floras, frequently providing also the general physiognomic characteristics of the...

  5. I Historical Framework and the Abiotic Environment

    • 2 Relation of Soils and Geomorphic Surfaces in the Brazilian Cerrado
      (pp. 13-32)
      Paulo E. F. Motta, Nilton Curi and Donald P. Franzmeier

      The cerrado region is located between the equatorial zone and 23° south latitude. It is bordered by the Amazon forest to the north, by the Atlantic forest to the south and southeast, and by the caatinga (deciduous xerophytic vegetation) of the semiarid region to the northeast. Also included in the cerrado region is the nonflooded part of the western pantanal (wet plains; see chapter 6). During its evolutional process, the areal extent of the cerrado expanded and contracted in response to climatic fluctuations. During dry periods, the cerrado expanded at the expense of forest (Ab’Saber 1963). During wet periods, forest...

    • 3 Late Quaternary History and Evolution of the Cerrados as Revealed by Palynological Records
      (pp. 33-50)
      Marie-Pierre Ledru

      Whether cerrados are anthropogenic or natural formations has been a matter of strong debate over the last century. The fact is that cerrados and forests can occur in the same region, at the same latitude, under the same climatic conditions (chapters 2, 6). These observations generated two types of hypotheses about the origin of the cerrado. The first favors the human-induced origin of the vegetation and is based on observations of fire-adapted species, which suggest that cerrados would result from the development of dry forests under the influence of fire (Lund 1835; Loefgren 1897; Aubréville 1961; Schnell 1961; Eiten 1972)....

    • 4 The Fire Factor
      (pp. 51-68)
      Heloisa S. Miranda, Mercedes M. C. Bustamante and Antonio C. Miranda

      Fire is a common feature of the cerrados, as it is for most savanna ecosystems. Fires set by man or lightning are common and have been for thousands of years. Vicentini (1993), in a paleoclimatic and paleovegetational study, has registered the occurrence of fire 32,400 Years Before Present (YBP) in the region of Cromínia (GO); De Oliveira (1992) registered the presence of charcoal particles dated from 13,700 YBP in lake sediments in cerrado of the southeastern Brazil; and Coutinho (1981) has reported the occurrence of charcoal pieces dated from 8,600 YBP from a campo cerrado soil horizon lying at 2...

    • 5 Past and Current Human Occupation, and Land Use
      (pp. 69-88)
      Carlos A. Klink and Adriana G. Moreira

      “Drive south from Rondonópolis, and for mile after mile the flat tableland stretches away to the far horizon, a limitless green prairie carpeted with swelling crops. The monotony of the landscape is broken only by the artifacts of modern agribusiness: a crop-dusting plane swoops low over the prairie to release its chemical cloud, while the occasional farmhouses have giant harvesting machines lined up in the yard outside. It could be the mid-western United States. In fact, it is the very heart of tropical South America, its central watershed, in the Brazilian State of Mato Grosso.’’ That is how a major...

  6. II The Plant Community:: Composition, Dynamics, and Life History

    • 6 Vegetation Physiognomies and Woody Flora of the Cerrado Biome
      (pp. 91-120)
      Ary T. Oliveira-Filho and James A. Ratter

      The Cerrado Biome of tropical South America covers about 2 million km², an area approximately the same as that of Western Europe, representing ca. 22% of the land surface of Brazil, plus small areas in eastern Bolivia and northwestern Paraguay (fig. 6.1). It extends from the southern borders of the Amazonian forest to outlying areas in the southern states of São Paulo and Paraná, occupying more than 2° of latitude and an altitudinal range from near sea-level to 1,800 m. The distribution of the Cerrado Biome is highly coincident with the plateaux of central Brazil, which divide three of the...

    • 7 Herbaceous Plant Communities
      (pp. 121-139)
      Tarciso S. Filgueiras

      The herbaceous plant communities, consisting of plant life forms not considered trees, can be found as the ground layer of forest habitats such as gallery and semideciduous forests and woodland cerradão. But they reach their highest diversity in open habitats such as campo limpo, campo sujo, campo rupestre, cerrado sensu stricto, and campo de murundus (see chapter 6). In such habitats a surprising number of life forms, taxonomic diversity, and adaptations can be found. These features make these communities very attractive both to biologists and to the general public. A campo limpo or an area of campo rupestre in full...

    • 8 Patterns and Dynamics of Plant Populations
      (pp. 140-158)
      Raimundo P. B. Henriques and John D. Hay

      The understanding of the dynamics of plant communities is based on measurements of rates of mortality and recruitment. These population parameters are essential to the study and prediction of responses of vegetation to global changes (Phillips and Gentry 1994; Pimm and Sugden 1994) and short-term climatic change (Condit et al. 1992), as well as patterns in species richness (Phillips et al. 1994). The issue takes on special significance because of its implications for community conservation and management (Primack and Hall 1992).

      Long-term monitoring of plant populations has been undertaken in various tropical forests around the world (Swaine, Lieberman, and Putz...

    • 9 The Role of Fire in Population Dynamics of Woody Plants
      (pp. 159-177)
      William A. Hoffmann and Adriana G. Moreira

      Understanding the factors responsible for the great variation in woody plant density has been a challenge for ecologists in the cerrado and other tropical savannas. It is becoming evident that no single factor determines tree density in the cerrado; rather, nutrient availability, water stress, and fire interact to determine woody plant cover. Of these three factors, the role of fire is perhaps most important to understand, since it alone is largely under human control and is probably the factor most variable at the interannual to interdecadal scale. Therefore it is likely responsible for most temporal changes in woody plant density...

    • 10 Ecophysiology of Woody Plants
      (pp. 178-198)
      Augusto C. Franco

      The central plains of Brazil are occupied by a complex of plant physiognomies such as cerradão, cerrado sensu stricto, and campo sujo (chapter 6). The great spatial variation in woody plant density across the cerrado landscape results in a complex pattern of resource availability, which changes both horizontally across the landscape and vertically within each vegetation type. This is of particular importance for seedlings that colonize the grass matrix typical of a campo sujo vegetation or a closed canopy woodland such as a cerradão. Like any other neotropical savanna, the cerrados are characterized by a strongly seasonal climate with distinctive...

  7. III The Animal Community:: Diversity and Biogeography

    • 11 Lepidoptera in the Cerrado Landscape and the Conservation of Vegetation, Soil, and Topographical Mosaics
      (pp. 201-222)
      Keith S. Brown Jr. and David R. Gifford

      Many chapters in this book emphasize the complexity, antiquity, and singularity of the biological systems of the Central Brazil Plateau. The widespread misconception that these mixed-savanna systems are species-poor has been definitively set aside by these chapters, as well as by those in a recent book on gallery forests in the region (Rodrigues and Leitão-Filho 2000). The only poverty now apparent is that of our data and sampling of the many profoundly different biological systems that occur in bewilderingly complex mosaics throughout the Cerrado Biome, often determined by varying soil characteristics (chapter 2) and water availability (chapter 6, see also...

    • 12 The Character and Dynamics of the Cerrado Herpetofauna
      (pp. 223-241)
      Guarino R. Colli, Rogério P. Bastos and Alexandre F. B. Araujo

      The earliest work on the herpetofauna of the cerrado is a list of 54 reptiles and amphibians from Lagoa Santa, state of Minas Gerais, prepared by Warming (1892). More than 50 years later, Vanzolini (1948) presented an annotated list of 22 snake and 11 lizard species from Pirassununga, state of São Paulo. Moreover, Vanzolini (1974, 1976, 1988) examined the distribution patterns of cerrado and caatinga lizards, concluding that no characteristic lizard fauna is harbored by either biome, both biomes belonging to a corridor of open vegetation ranging from northwestern Argentina to northeastern Brazil (see chapter 6). According to Vanzolini (1976),...

    • 13 The Avifauna: Ecology, Biogeography, and Behavior
      (pp. 242-265)
      Regina H. F. Macedo

      One of the earliest studies of the birds in the cerrado region was that of Sick (1955), whose records date to an expedition to Rio das Mortes in central Brazil in 1944. Subsequently, Sick’s (1965, 1966) field work in Goiás, Mato Grosso and Pará, at the time almost untouched by civilization, led him to conclude that it was difficult to describe a “typical’’ avifauna for the cerrado region, and that it was relatively poor (in this chapter “cerrado region’’ or “Brazilian cerrados’’ refer to the biome itself, while “cerrado’’ refers to the sensu stricto vegetation type. See chapter 6 for...

    • 14 The Cerrado Mammals: Diversity, Ecology, and Natural History
      (pp. 266-284)
      Jader Marinho-Filho, Flávio H. G. Rodrigues and Keila M. Juarez

      The first formal records of cerrado mammals were made by one of the first Brazilian scientists, Alexandre R. Ferreira, who from 1783 to 1792 explored the provinces of Grão-Pará, Rio Negro, Mato Grosso, and Cuiabá (Hershkovitz 1987). However, only in the second half of the 20th century have Brazilian zoologists made the transition from a merely taxonomic treatment of the fauna towards a more naturalistic and ecological approach. Herein we present a review and analysis of the available information on natural history and geographical ranges of species and groups of the cerrado mammalian fauna, delineating patterns, making comparisons with other...

  8. IV Insect-Plant Interactions

    • 15 Ant Foraging on Plant Foliage: Contrasting Effects on the Behavioral Ecology of Insect Herbivores
      (pp. 287-305)
      Paulo S. Oliveira, André V. L. Freitas and Kleber Del-Claro

      Ants are dominant organisms whose individual colonies may contain several million workers. Their numerical dominance in terrestrial habitats is combined with a broad taxonomic diversity and a widespread distribution throughout the Globe (Hölldobler and Wilson 1990). The ecological success of ants is attributed to their eusocial mode of life, local abundance, and diversity of adaptations, among other things (Wilson 1987). Such traits result in a wide variety of feeding habits and foraging strategies, including the use of plant foliage as a foraging substrate (Carroll and Janzen 1973). Intense foraging on vegetation appears to have set the scenario for a multitude...

    • 16 Interactions Among Cerrado Plants and Their Herbivores: Unique or Typical?
      (pp. 306-328)
      Robert J. Marquis, Helena C. Morais and Ivone R. Diniz

      A long dry season, frequent fires, and very low soil nutrient quality are stress factors that make life difficult for cerrado plants (see chapters 2, 4, 9). Perhaps as a result, ecological studies of plant adaptation to cerrado environments have emphasized the role of abiotic factors in shaping plant adaptation and plant distribution in these environments (Lewinsohn et al. 1991). Investigation of biotic factors such as herbivory, and of plant-animal interactions in general, have lagged behind such efforts.

      Initial studies of plant-herbivore interactions in cerrado have been descriptive, focusing on basic information. Questions addressed by such studies include: how many...

    • 17 Pollination and Reproductive Biology in Cerrado Plant Communities
      (pp. 329-348)
      Paulo E. Oliveira and Peter E. Gibbs

      Studies on the pollination biology and breeding systems of extensive samples of species in plant communities are valuable since they allow various conceptual issues to be addressed. With such data, comparisons can be made between different communities (e.g., moist versus seasonal forest), or between different components of the vertical strata (e.g., canopy versus understory taxa). In this way we can determine the role of diverse pollinators in different kinds of woodland, or analyze the frequency of obligate outbreeding versus self-compatible taxa in different communities or subunits of the same community. And with estimations of actual mating systems for particular species,...

  9. V The Conservation of the Cerrados

    • 18 Biodiversity and Conservation Priorities in the Cerrado Region
      (pp. 351-368)
      Roberto B. Cavalcanti and Carlos A. Joly

      The conservation of the Cerrado Biome and its ecosystems has been neglected until very recently, for two related reasons. First, central Brazil was very sparsely occupied until the mid-twentieth century, and therefore perceived threats to the environment were low (chapter 5). Second, the native cerrado had little apparent economic value and was often unattractive even in the eyes of specialists, due to the scrubby nature of the vegetation, low faunal densities, and a pronounced dry season with frequent fires. The region was colonized by Europeans systematically since the 18th century, towns were started at strategic points by prospectors seeking gold...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 369-372)
  11. Index
    (pp. 373-398)