Brasília and the West Feature

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The Brazilian Savanna

Brazil's vast cerrado (savanna) is the most biologically rich grassland in the world. More than 100,000 species of plants are found in this 500-million-acre (200-million-hectare) territory that covers about 25% of Brazil, and nearly 50% of them are endemic to Brazil. Its small trees, shrubs, and grasses are adapted to the harshness of the dry season, when temperatures in some parts rise well above 38°C (100°F) and humidity drops to a desert low of 13%. Palm species usually stand out among the shrubby vegetation—thick bunches of buriti usually grow around springs and creeks. Cacti and bromeliads are also abundant. Look also for the pequi, a shrub that produces berries used in local cuisine, which are called souari nuts.

Unfortunately, only about 2% of the cerrado is protected. Since development—mostly in the form of soy and corn farming and cattle ranches—it has become harder to spot such species of cerrado wildlife as deer, jaguars, and giant anteaters. Rheas, however, can be seen wandering through pastures and soybean plantations.

Updated: 2013-09-17

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