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How Climate Change Is Threatening the Biodiversity of the Brazilian Savanna

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The Cerrado, a tropical savanna in Brazil that covers an area larger than Mexico, has already lost half of its native vegetation.

Climate change threatens to push endemic species in the Cerrado, Brazil’s vast tropical savanna, into extinction while allowing the spread of species already commonplace elsewhere, a new study says.

This will make the Cerrado, which covers more than 20 percent of Brazil’s territory—an area greater than the size of Mexico—and which has already lost over 50 percent of its native vegetation, less resilient to future changes.

“The study adds to mounting evidence that future climate change is poised to change the very fabric of biological life on Earth,” said Julian Olden, a professor of ecology at the University of Washington, who was not affiliated with the study.

The study, published in March in the journal Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation by ecologist José Hidasi-Neto and colleagues at the Federal University of Goiás–Brazil, found a general decrease in species richness, and a homogenization pattern in certain areas, like the southern Cerrado, despite the high rate of influx of species from other biomes into the savanna.

“Generally speaking this represents a future where the Cerrado will have [fewer] species of mammals and where generalist species coming from other biomes, like the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, will expand their ranges into the Cerrado,” said Marcus Cianciaruso, a contributing author to the study. “As a consequence we will have dramatic changes in Cerrado mammal species composition, where specialist species will be lost and generalist species will dominate all the landscapes of the Cerrado.”

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