Cataratas dos Couros: Parque se recupera, após incêndio que devastou áreas que abrigam espécies de fauna e flora ameaçadas de extinção
Devastated in October last year by the largest fire in its history, the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park in Goiás is recovering. The conservation unit had 66,000 hectares devastated by fire, which corresponds to more than 26% of its total area. Adding to the other two previous fires in the same month, that number rises to approximately 75,000 hectares destroyed. Appointed as a criminal by the authorities, the fire has impacted, in addition to nature, the health of residents and the economy in the region.
The long dry season and dry vegetation of the Cerrado are preponderant factors to the fire spreading, as in the case of the park. Therefore, it is not uncommon that, although man-made, fires like this are not intentional. However, there is one line of research that may prove otherwise. As the park had its area expanded from 65 thousand to 240 thousand hectares in 2017, there are large number of farmers in the region irritated by the measure – a brake on the expansion of agribusiness. Nothing has yet been proven, and local authorities reject the hypothesis, despite confirming their discontent.
In a manifesto prior to the expansion of the park, several conservation entities gathered at the World Conservation Congress (IUCN) issued a manifesto reiterating the importance of the park in protecting the Cerrado, “one of the most diverse and least protected biomes in the country.” “The park will be responsible for the preservation of water resources fundamental to urban and rural areas and will still maintain stunning landscapes intact for future generations.” In addition to being considered a success case for Brazilian ecotourism, the activities related to the park and its surrounding area serve as a source of income and lead to more development and sustainable economic alternatives for the local populations.
Another key agent for the recovery and survival of the conservation unit was the collective effort of the population and officials of environmental preservation agencies in the fight against fire. In union, state entities, such as the ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation), Ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Company) and firefighters; organizations, associations and volunteers interested in protecting the environment continue to collaborate in environmental restoration.
One of the forms of cooperation is through the donation and planting of typical seedlings for the recovery of soil and springs. Head of the Chapada dos Veadeiros Park, Fernando Tatagiba was ahead of the fire-fighting actions last year, and now celebrates teamwork to restore the park. “The seeds of native species are fundamental to the ecological processes responsible for the natural regeneration of degraded ecosystems in Chapada dos Veadeiros,” he says.
Another measure adopted also aiming at the preservation of the area was the training of natives as brigadistas to help in fires. The strategy has shown positive results since its implementation and has already contributed to the reduction of large fires.
Despite the current state of recovery of the park, the unprecedented disaster stands as a warning for the upcoming periods of drought and burning, typical in the region. For it to not happen again, environmental awareness of the importance of this natural heritage for all and of the harm that burning fires can bring is the road to effective and long-lasting results.
The Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park was declared a World Natural Heritage Site in 2001 by Unesco and, besides sheltering an enormous variety of species of plants and animals, is considered “cradle of waters”, because it houses three aquifers: Guarani, Urucuia and Bambuí, as well as springs in six of the eight Brazilian watersheds.
(with information from ICMBio)