Decision to stop monitoring the Cerrado, the world's most species-rich savanna, was made because of budget cuts, says a government scientist Claudio Almeida.

An aerial view shows deforestation near a forest on the border between Amazonia and Cerrado in Nova Xavantina, Mato Grosso state, Brazil on July 28, 2021.
An aerial view shows deforestation near a forest on the border between Amazonia and Cerrado in Nova Xavantina, Mato Grosso state, Brazil on July 28, 2021. (Reuters Archive)

Brazil will stop monitoring deforestation in the Cerrado, the world's most species-rich savanna, a government researcher has said, citing a lack of funds, days after data showed destruction hitting a 6-year high in 2021.

The decision to stop monitoring the Cerrado was made because of budget cuts, said Claudio Almeida on Thursday. Almeida is a scientist who coordinates satellite monitoring at national space research agency Inpe.

Inpe will no longer produce annual figures for Cerrado deforestation unless it is able to find a new source of funding, Almeida said in a written message.

A "minimal team" will continue producing monthly deforestation figures for the Cerrado but will run out of money in six months or less, he said.

Inpe's press office did not respond to a request for comment.

READ MORE: Scientists alarmed at deforestation in Brazil's Cerrado

Massive deforestation

The Cerrado, which neighbours the Amazon rainforest and stretches across several Brazilian states, is a major bulwark against climate crisis due to the carbon it absorbs. 

It is often likened to an upside-down forest because its plants sink roots deep into the ground.

Deforestation rose 8 percent to 8,531 square kilometres in the Cerrado for the 12-months through July, data from Inpe showed on Friday.

The move to stop monitoring the Cerrado appears to be another setback for environmental protection under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro has railed against environmental protections hindering economic growth and he has weakened enforcement of conservation laws.

The president's office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

READ MORE: Europe stores shun Brazil beef over Amazon deforestation links

Scientists alarmed over Cerrado destruction 

Marcio Astrini, head of the environmental group Climate Observatory, said he hoped the government would find funding to continue monitoring such a vital ecosystem.

"Monitoring shows if deforestation is advancing, and if deforestation will doom a biome that is so important for Brazilians," Astrini said.

But he said he is not optimistic given Bolsonaro's record. The president has attacked Inpe in the past, in 2019 accusing the agency of lying about the data showing soaring Amazon rainforest deforestation.

Earlier this week, scientists expressed alarm at the rising destruction in the Cerrado, saying it results in huge greenhouse gas emissions and threatens to drive species to extinction.

"Every time you go to the Cerrado to do field research, it's not rare to discover a new species of plant or even animals," said Manuel Ferreira, a geographer at the Federal University of Goias. 

"There are still many species yet to be studied."

READ MORE: Brazil's Bolsonaro accused of stoking 'mass destruction' of Amazon

Source: Reuters