The need for a consistent fire policy for Cerrado conservation.
The Cerrado is a fire-dependent savanna requiring a clear and urgent fire management policy. The extensive misuse of fire for deforestation or pasture management in Brazil has created an overall perception that its use is always deleterious. This view, reinforced by threats of global warming and climatic change, has lead to current policies of fire suppression. Cerrado ecosystems depend on the historical fire regime to maintain their structure, biodiversity and functioning. The suppression of fire has transformed savanna vegetation into forests, causing biodiversity losses and drastic changes in ecological processes. Policy implications. The National Fire Policy required by law must be urgently implemented in Brazil, including use of fire for Cerrado conservation in public and private lands on the basis of existing knowledge of indigenous people and scientists. Objective regulations on prescribed burning, land manager training, incentives for fire research and experimentation and a broad campaign to disseminate the benefits of fire for Cerrado conservation should be the cornerstones of the policy. If implemented, the policy can give the biodiversity of the Cerrado a future that has previously been severely threatened by fire suppression.