Amazon is the biome with the most pastures in Brazil
In the last two decades, the area of pasture grew 40% in the Amazon. In the same period, this type of land cover decreased substantially in the Atlantic Forest (28%) and in the Cerrado (10%), where 10.2 million hectares were transformed into temporary crops. The advance of pastures over the Amazon placed it at the top of the list of biomes with the largest area, in percentage terms, with 36%. Cerrado (31%), Atlantic Forest (18%), Caatinga (12%) and Pantanal (2%) come next. With the exception of Minas Gerais, with 19.3 million hectares, the other two leading states in pasture area in Brazil are in the Legal Amazon: Pará (21.1 million hectares) and Mato Grosso (20.2 million hectares).
The data are part of an unprecedented MapBiomas mapping that was presented on Wednesday, November 30, by YouTube. It reveals that the main use given to the Brazilian soil is still pasture: of all the deforested area in Brazil, which is already close to 35% of the national territory, approximately 90% was or is pasture. Present in the six biomes, it currently occupies around 151 million hectares from north to south of the country. But the total area may be even larger because this figure does not include part of the natural grasslands, especially in the Pampa and Pantanal, which cover 12 million hectares in the country, and areas of mosaic uses, where it is not possible to separate agriculture and grazing (or they occur together), and which cover 42 million hectares.
From the analysis of satellite images it is possible to identify an intense dynamic in terms of pasture areas in Brazil, marked by moments of territorial expansion and retraction. Between 1990 and 2000, 46.4 million hectares of natural and anthropic areas were converted to pasture, mainly in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes, while 19.2 million hectares of pasture areas were converted to other uses or abandoned, notably in the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest biomes. Between 2000 and 2021, natural and anthropic areas converted to pasture totaled 47.1 million hectares and, once again, Amazonia and Cerrado were the main conversion targets. But the conversion or abandonment of pasture in this same period more than doubled in relation to that recorded in the two previous decades: 44.7 million hectares, mainly in the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest biomes.
Between 1985 and 2021, agriculture and cattle raising activities gained 85 million hectares - an increase of 47%. Agricultural and cattle raising activities grew in five of the six Brazilian biomes, with the exception of the Atlantic Forest.
Brazilian pastures store more than six gigatonnes of carbon
For the first time ever, MapBiomas' Collection 7 brings estimates of carbon stocks in the soil associated with pasture areas in Brazil. Considering pastures throughout Brazil (cultivated and native), the total soil organic carbon stock is 6.43±1.79 gigatons. Specifically for the Cerrado biome, the recovery of about 28 million hectares of pastures with some level of degradation may result in a gain of approximately 6% in soil carbon stocks by 2030.
Considering average carbon stocks (tons per hectare), these vary from 44 to 22 tons per hectare for the superficial soil layer (0 to 20 cm) in the (native) pasture areas of Pampa and Pantanal, respectively. For the other biomes - Atlantic Forest, Amazon, Caatinga and Cerrado - these stocks are around 41, 39, 36 and 33 tons per hectare, respectively.
"The recovery of degraded pastures and adoption of good management practices represent a real win-win. The producer wins, with the increase in herd productivity. And the country wins, given the greater potential of well-managed pastures to sequester carbon, contributing to the reduction of emissions and to make livestock activity as a whole more sustainable," says Laerte Ferreira, professor at the Federal University of Goiás and general coordinator of the pasture mapping.