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Soybean1The Balsas basin, a natural dry savannah, is located in the south of the Brasilian Maranhão State. It is rich in relief, measures about 26000 km2 and includes 10 municipalities. The predominant natural land cover is campo cerrado characterised by a mix of grasslands, secondary forest and sparse scrubs. Since the 1970s the natural environment and its biodiversity are threatened by expanding soybean cultivation.

Determining high conservation value areas can help to safeguard them from the pressures of agricultural expansion. Bird species are recognised as good indicators of habitat disturbance, habitat loss and fragmentation. Larger mammals are an important animal group for regional ecosystem planning because they have larger dispersal capacity and need larger habitat areas. Assessing the response of those species to actual landscape properties are a tool to determine what areas should be considered as high conservation value areas. [Barreto, 2012]  Soybean2What are likely areas for future soybean expansion? What is the effect of that future expansion on indicator species as birds and large mammals? What areas need protection?

People involved

biological experts, scientific ecological and land use modellers Setting: One year postdoc desk study with regular feedback rounds from fellow scientists


250 x 250 m2 resolution: land use (current situation and future projections), topography, soil, elevation


Barreto, L., van Eupen, M., Kok, K., Jongman, R., Ribeiro, M., Veldkamp, A., Hass, A., Oliveira, T., 2012, The impact of soybean expansion on mammal and bird, in the Balsas region north Brasilian Cerrado, Journal for Nature Conservation, 20, pp. 374-383