The Brazilian Cerrado is the largest savannah region in South America, and is home to the Cerrado Biosphere Reserve which encompasses the Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks World Heritage site. The Cerrado biome is also the most biodiverse savannah in the world, home to approximately 5% of the planet’s biodiversity.

The region supports many rare and endemic animals and plants, including the giant anteater, giant armadillo, maned wolf, jaguar, pampas deer, and also the rhea – South America’s largest bird. In addition, the area supports many threatened small mammals and endemic birds, and researchers continue to discover species that are new to science.

However, the Cerrado faces severe challenges. According to Brazil’s
National Institute for Space Research (INPE), it has one of the highest deforestation rates in the country, and is threatened by cyclical fires which could result in species extinctions due to the high degree of endemism in the region. Fires are traditionally used to enhance agricultural productivity, but can quickly get out of control if not properly managed. This year, fires started on the 12th of September and spread fast due to the conditions of high temperatures, low relative humidity, and strong winds.

The Rapid Response Facility (RRF) has therefore provided US$ 39,745 to Instituto Associação Rede Contra Fogo, a civil society group that is central in coordinating the fire-fighting efforts of the different agencies and groups involved. Funds will strengthen teams on-the-ground by providing essential equipment, including a vehicle, water pumps, fire-blowers and safety equipment. Food, fuel, communications equipment such as drones, and the development of a mobile phone application will be critical to delivery of an effective fire response.

This RRF grant will not only be used to protect the sensitive ecological properties that make this site so special, but will also prevent social losses from damage to infrastructure, homes and the local economy.  Securing equipment for rapid deployment will also enhance the long-term local capacity of fire-fighting operations, which is vitally important in the face of future fire events and climatic extremes.

The RRF thanks Fondation Franz Weber, Arcadia, Fondation Iris and the Government of Norway for their support.