Orbital monitoring of the Brazilian pasturelands: patterns, trends and potential ecosystem services

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Laerte Guimaraes Ferreira, Leandro L Parente, Arielle E Arantes, Fernando M Araujo, Jorge S Brito, Sergio Nogueira, Adriano S Faria, Anna Santos, Manuel E Ferreira, Janete R Silva, Leomar Rufino Jr., Pedro Vieira, Wanessa C Silva, Fernanda Stefani, Gabriel Veloso, Leonardo Nogueira and Oscar O Aguado, Federal University of Goiás, Goiania, Brazil
In Brazil, where cultivated pastures constitute the dominant land use form, cattle ranching intensification plays a major role towards more environmentally sustainable agricultural practices, through its potential for mitigating GHG emissions, as well as by making available cost-effective land reserve for other uses. However, environmentally sustainable livestock intensification, one of the key goals pursued by Plano ABC (the federal government low carbon agriculture plan), strongly depends on our ability to more precisely identify pasture conditions, improvement needs, and the respective cattle support capacities. To this end, and with the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, we have concentrated efforts in order to have: 1) a more detailed and updated map of the brazilian pasturelands; 2) a thorough biophysical differentiation of these pastures according to degradation stages / forage levels; and 3) an estimation of overall pasture productivity trends. Our initial estimates, based on the interpretation of satellite and census data, suggest that as much as 50% of the total grazing area in Brazil (about 170 Mhectares) are moderately or severely affected by soil-plant degradation. On the other hand, our preliminary results also corroborate the enormous potential of well managed pastures to positively impact carbon and water fluxes. Based on satellite data and pasture samples from large and productive cattle ranch operations in the central savanna biome in Brazil (Cerrado), we estimated total growing season (October to April) biomass and evapotranspiration to correspond to 9 Gt of carbon and 420 Gt of water, respectively.