Brazilian pastures occupy an area equivalent to the entire state of Amazonas

Pasture area has grown 200% in the Amazon in the last 36 years. In this period the amount of severely degraded pastureland fell by half throughout the country

The main use given to the Brazilian soil is pasture: it occupies 154 million hectares from north to south, present in all six biomes. This area is almost equivalent to the entire state of Amazonas, which has 156 million hectares. Or 6.2 states of São Paulo. Or more than two and a half times the size of Bahia. The data are part of an unprecedented mapping of MapBiomas presented this Wednesday, October 13, by YouTube.

The area destined to cattle raising is even bigger if we consider that part of the natural grassland areas are added to it, mainly in Pampa and Pantanal, which cover 46.6 million hectares in the country, and areas of agriculture and pasture mosaic where mapping did not allow separation or where they occur together, and which cover 45 million hectares.

The analysis of the satellite images between 1985 and 2020 also made it possible to evaluate the quality of Brazilian pastures and to note a drop in the areas with signs of degradation from 70% in 2000 to 53% in 2020. In the case of severely degraded pastures there was an even more significant reduction; they represented 29% of pastures in 2000 (46.3 million hectares) and now represent 14% (22.1 million hectares). This improvement was identified in all biomes, with the most severely degraded areas being in the Amazon (60%), Cerrado (56.4%), Atlantic Forest (52%) and Pantanal (25.6%).  

 "The quality of pastures is strategically important for the producer and for the country. For the producer, because of the direct relationship with herd productivity, be it beef or dairy. For the country, because of the capacity of well-managed pastures to capture carbon. On the other hand, degraded pastures aggravate the contribution of the agriculture and cattle-raising sector to climate-changing gas emissions, with perverse effects on agriculture and cattle-raising activities themselves," explains Laerte Laerte Ferreira, professor and pro-rector of Graduate Studies (PRPG) at the Federal University of Goiás and coordinator of the MapBiomas pasture survey.  

From 1985 to 2020, at least 252 million hectares are or have been pastureland. Based on the analysis of satellite images it was possible to detect two distinct phases in the conversion process that transformed almost one third of the country into pastureland in this period. It was more intense between 1985 and 2006, when there was a 46.3% growth in the area occupied by pasture, which went from 111 million hectares to 162.4 million hectares. In the mid-2000s, the total area of pasture stopped growing and even shrank, registering a retraction of 5% from 2005 to 2020.  

This apparent stability hides an intense process of land use change, with the conversion of native vegetation areas for cattle raising and the occupation of already converted areas by agriculture. In the specific case of the Amazon, satellite images show that cattle ranching advanced, between 1985 and 2020, by 38 million hectares - an increase of about 200%.  This growth has made the Amazon the biome with the largest extension of cultivated pasture, with 56.6 million hectares, followed by Cerrado (47 million hectares), Atlantic Forest (28.5 million hectares), Caatinga (20 million hectares) and Pantanal (2.4 million hectares).

MapBiomas Collection 6 showed that agriculture and cattle ranching gained 81.2 million hectares between 1985 and 2020 - a growth of 44.6%. Agricultural activities grew in five of the six Brazilian biomes, with the exception of the Atlantic Forest.  Specific data on the advance of agriculture will be presented in a new MapBiomas study to be launched on October 20.  

In percentage terms, the biome most occupied by cultivated pasture is the Atlantic Forest, with 25.7%, followed by Cerrado (23.7%), Caatinga (23.1%), Pantanal (16%) and Amazon (13.4%).  The leading states in pasture area are Pará (21.5 million hectares), Mato Grosso (21 million hectares) and Minas Gerais (19.3 million hectares).

Access the main highlights of Pasture in Collection 6. 

How the Pasture data presentation webinar went.