Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 10, pp 2587–2603 | Cite as

The deadly route to collapse and the uncertain fate of Brazilian rupestrian grasslands

  • G. Wilson FernandesEmail author
  • N. P. U. Barbosa
  • B. Alberton
  • A. Barbieri
  • R. Dirzo
  • F. Goulart
  • T. J. Guerra
  • L. P. C. Morellato
  • R. R. C. Solar
Original Paper


Rupestrian grasslands are biodiverse, evolutionary old vegetation complexes that harbor more than 5000 species of vascular plants and one of the highest levels of plant endemism in the world. Growing on nutrient–impoverished soils and under harsh environmental conditions, these mountaintop ecosystems were once spared from major human interventions of agriculture and intensive cattle ranching. However, in Brazil, rupestrian grasslands have experienced one of the most extreme land use changes among all Brazilian ecosystems, suffering from ill policies leading to intense mining activities, uncontrolled tourism, and unplanned road construction. Indeed, the discovery of large mineral reserves, the adoption of ineffective conservation policies, and, going forward, climate change, are threatening this hyper-diverse ecosystem. Here, we shed light on the severe threats imposed by land-use changes in this ecosystem, modeling its future distribution under different scenarios. We uncover a catastrophic forecast that, if not halted, will lead to the loss of 82% of this unique ecosystem in the future, impacting ecosystem services at regional scales, including water and food security potentially affecting more than 50 million persons.


Biodiversity Campo rupestre Cerrado Espinhaço mountains Mining Sustainability 



We thank the Conselho Nacional de Pesquisas (CNPq) for funding the Long-Term Ecological Research (PELD-CRSC-17), the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG), Coordenadoria de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), PPBio/MCTIC, PRPq/UFMG and Neotropical Grassland Conservation (NGC) for financial support. We are also grateful to the Company Cedro Têxtil, Reserva Vellozia, Parque Nacional da Serra do Cipó, GSG and Pousada Serra Morena for logistical support. NPUB received a CNPq-PDJ scholarship (154664/2016-2), FFG, TJG received a CNPq-PNPD scholarship, BA received a PhD scholarship from FAPESP (Grant #2014/0215-0), RD was supported by Stanford University unrestricted funds, and LPCM was supported by FAPESP (Grant #2013/50155-0). RS received support from PRPq/UFMG 005/2016. AFB received support from Rede Clima (FINEP/CNPq). LPCM and GWF received a research productivity fellowship from CNPq.

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1556_MOESM1_ESM.tif (35.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (TIFF 36636 kb). Some recently described species from rupestrian grasslands. Cinclodes espinhacensis Freitas, Chaves, Costa, Santos & Rodrigues, 2012 (Photo credits: G Freitas) (A); Pterinopelma sazimai Bertani, Nagahama and Fukushima 2011 (Photo credits: CS Fukushima) (B); Timorus sarcophagoides Vanin and Guerra 2012 (Photo credits: TJ Guerra) (C); Philcoxia minensis Souza and Guil. (Photo credits: RS Oliveira) (D) Nematodes trapped on the underground leaves of the carnivorous plant P. minensis (Photo credits: RS Oliveira) (E) and Paepalanthus bromelioides Silveira (Photo credits: TJ Guerra) (F).
10531_2018_1556_MOESM2_ESM.docx (43 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 34 kb)
10531_2018_1556_MOESM3_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 20 kb)
10531_2018_1556_MOESM4_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Wilson Fernandes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • N. P. U. Barbosa
    • 1
  • B. Alberton
    • 3
  • A. Barbieri
    • 4
  • R. Dirzo
    • 2
  • F. Goulart
    • 5
    • 6
  • T. J. Guerra
    • 7
  • L. P. C. Morellato
    • 3
  • R. R. C. Solar
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Biologia GeralUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  2. 2.Department of BiologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Laboratório de Fenologia, Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de BiociênciasUniversidade Estadual Paulista UNESPRio ClaroBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de DemografiaUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  5. 5.Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  6. 6.Instituto de Geociências, Pós-Graduação em Análise e Modelagem de Sistemas AmbientaisUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  7. 7.Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil

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