Our area of interest is the Cerrado around the Araguaia corridor of protected areas.  This is a mosaic of over two million hectares of parks and Indian reserves, including Cantão State Park and Araguaia National Park.  It has exceptional biodiversity because it lies along a sharp ecotone between the Amazon and Cerrado biomes.  Unfortunately, all the strictly protected areas consist of marshes and forests that flood annually.  None of the Cerrado side of the ecotone is under strict protection, and it is being converted into industrial monoculture at an astonishing rate.  A single soybean project currently being implemented near Cantão State Park will cover 50,000 hectares.

The wetland ecosystems of the middle Araguaia depend on the surrounding Cerrado to provide a refuge for terrestrial wildlife during exceptional floods, and in turn receive the migration of the Cerrado’s waterbirds and large mammals during the dry season.  Thus, in addition to being a rich ecosystem in its own right, the Cerrado is indispensable for the long-term viability of the protected areas along the Araguaia corridor.

Our strategy is to achieve protection of a representative sample of the Cerrado ecosystems along the Araguaia corridor, in a way that complements existing protected areas and conserves the Amazon-Cerrado ecotone.  To do this we will:

1.Map and publicize the annual loss of Cerrado along the Araguaia corridor, particularly around Cantão State Park and Araguaia National Park. 

2.Campaign for the establishment of a legal buffer zone in the Cerrado around the two parks.

3.Monitor compliance with current forestry legislation within the buffer zone, especially the maintenance of a strip of vegetation along water courses.

4.Establish a string of Cerrado protected areas within the buffer zone using market mechanisms that respect property rights, such as land acquisition, conservation easements, compensation of legal reserves under the Brazilian Forestry Code, and incentives for the establishment of private protected areas.

To start the program, in 2015 we will map the current vegetation and land use in the Cerrado adjacent to Cantão State Park and Araguaia National Park, using satellites images and ground verification, following the standard methodology for a  rapid ecological assessment.  This map will be used to quantify the loss of native habitat over recent years, and to show the location of the most critical remaining habitat patches and connecting corridors between them.  Based on this map we will develop a strategy to alert authorities and the conservation community to the rapid (and often illegal) loss of Cerrado in the region, and thus demonstrate that urgent steps must be taken to protect the buffer zones of both parks. 

The ultimate objective will be to have a strip of Cerrado around both protected areas legally designated as a buffer zone (Zona de Amortecimento), in which industrial agriculture will be prohibited and preservation of native habitat will be promoted.  This is a legal requirement for both parks, but the process is stalled due to lack of technical data on which to base the designation.  We believe that our proposed mapping and monitoring of land use and habitat loss in the area, together with data already gathered by our team documenting the migration of wildlife between the park and proposed buffer zone, will provide the missing technical argument and the impetus for a campaign to achieve this objective.

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