The Hope of the Cerrado
To talk about baru seeds is to talk about the South American Cerrado. They are part of an overlooked ecosystem that is being destroyed very rapidly, with dire consequences to many biomes, such as the Amazon and the Pantanal.
The Cerrado is the richest savanna in the world in terms of biodiversity and the second largest biome in South America, being home to some of the main water tables in the continent. It is 65 million years old and spreads over the heart of Brazil, parts of Bolivia and Paraguay, being roughly half the size of Europe, or twice the size of Ontario.
Currently, only 20% of the Cerrado’s original vegetation remains. This happened mainly in the last 20 years, with a deforestation rate 5x faster than the Amazon. The main culprit here is, unfortunately, soybeans and other commodities used as animal feed, though cattle ranching and deforesting for charcoal still play their part.
Native trees such as baru allow for the keeping of water tables and important aquifers such as the Guarani, the second largest in the world, almost the size of Quebec. The Cerrado is part of a complex water cycle, and the disappearance of such vegetation could dramatically affect that cycle and snowball into the loss of 40% of the Amazon forest by 2050, not to mention other South American biomes.
The recent “discovery” of baru seeds as a nutrient-rich food means its extraction is now a profitable alternative to deforestation, creating jobs, international awareness of the Cerrado, and stimulating the local economy, as baru fruits and seeds are foraged as a source of income by hundreds of Cerrado communities.
With the increase on demand, more baru trees are planted, which creates a butterfly effect by attracting local pollinators, allowing the natural water cycle to be restored and maintaining existing water tables and watersheds. Baru brings hope to the Cerrado!
Cerrado and the Amazon Rainforest
The Cerrado is deeply connected to the Amazon, especially regarding their shared, complex water cycle.
Water comes from the Atlantic Ocean (1) and enters the Amazon rainforest as it becomes flying rivers (2), heading south (3) towards Midwestern Brazil (4). This rainfall penetrates the soil through deep-rooted vegetation such as baru trees and integrates water tables that feed rivers such as the Tocantins, Araguaia, and Xingu (5), returning to the rainforest.