Spatial planning for restoration in Cerrado: balancing the trade-offs between conservation and agriculture.
The Brazilian Cerrado, the most biodiverse savanna globally with great importance for water and carbon conservation, faces the impacts of rapid and extensive land conversion, mainly for agricultural uses. The native Cerrado vegetation originally covered an area of 204 Mha however, 43% has been converted to human use. Pastures are the major land use category in Cerrado, covering 57 Mha, 28% of its area. Most of these pastures are underused and present some degree of degradation, representing an opportunity for restoration programs and agriculture expansion without further conversion of natural areas. The restoration of the Cerrado's degraded pastures is a source of recovery of ecosystem services, however, it might involve synergies and trade-offs between ecosystem services and stakeholders. To evaluate potential trade-offs, we modelled seven scenarios for prioritization for restoration, focusing on pasture areas on a biome scale. We considered biodiversity, water-related ecosystem services, potential carbon stock and agriculture aptitude to understand the trade-offs between each feature and the conflicts with agriculture. We also applied the same prioritization logic for one Cerrado ecoregion to understand the importance of planning on a finer scale. We identified important trade-offs between the scenarios, especially with agriculture. The agriculture conflict scenario showed that 16 Mha of areas suitable to agriculture have also a high importance for restoration, representing a gain around 70% in ecosystem services and biodiversity. By refining the spatial scale of the prioritization process, we could also identify local conflicts and demands, which indicates the relevance of a local approach, allowing a more representative cover of the Cerrado's heterogeneity to minimize trade-offs between different demands associated with restoration. Policy implications. The restoration of degraded lands is an international priority to mitigate climate change as well as protect the biodiversity. Our work provides a better understanding of the trade-offs and conflicts involved in the restoration of the Cerrado, a megadiverse savanna with great importance in agriculture. This understanding is key to implementing public policies that enable large-scale restoration projects while optimizing biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services provision and minimizing conflicts with agriculture.