The corrosion of the Caatinga

The corrosion of the Caatinga

Wood extraction and use of land for crops and pasture reduce biodiversity and transform the landscape of the badlands

Collecting firewood in the interior of Pernambuco

Imagem: Ricardo Azoury / Olhar Imagem



Carlos Fioravanti
Over three scorching days during the second week of March 2018, a team from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) dug pits in the dry soil of abandoned fields in Catimbau National Park in central Pernambuco to examine the inside of leafcutter ant colonies. The researchers saw that in the area of shallow soil where they dug, the ants had stored organic matter up to 3 meters (m) deep, blocking plants from accessing nutrients and delaying the regeneration of native vegetation. On other expeditions, they found that the density of leafcutter ant colonies increased from two per hectare (ha) in the areas of native vegetation to 15 per ha (1 ha is 10,000 square meters) in areas used for farming or grazing. The leafcutters overlap with other species of ants as the native vegetation is removed…