Caatinga Biome and Desertification

Due to its location in the Brazilian semi-arid region, which is characterized by long periods of drought and irregular rains, Ceará is directly related to global warming, especially considering the driest regions of the state. This factor can be observed through the process of desertification in areas of the Caatinga biome, a phenomenon that will be directly increased by rising temperatures.

The map Ceará map below contains areas in orange that already face a high degree of desertification process, thus directly affecting the most vulnerable communities that depend on activities such as agriculture and livestock for their survival.

The map contains areas in orange that already face a high degree of desertification process.

Arid lands currently cover about 46.2% (+/- 0.8%) of the global land area and are home to 3 billion people. Critical points of desertification are identified by a decline in vegetation productivity and by 2015 affected 500 million people worldwide, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

According to the UNCCD, the desertification has already reduced productivity and agricultural income and contributed to the loss of biodiversity in some arid regions of the planet. In other arid land regions, the spread of invasive plants has led to losses in ecosystem services, while excessive extraction is leading to the depletion of groundwater. This factor increases the climatic vulnerability of certain regions, making them prone to suffer significantly from these changes that can affect different segments of society, including the agricultural, trade, services and industrial sectors.
In this context, the State of Ceará has an important role in combating climate change and adapting to its effects, specially focusing on the development of policy to tackle the impacts of climate change in the biodiversity in the Caatinga biome.

Photo taken by Honório Barbosa

Periods of intense drought and the problem of access to water

Northeast Brazil is considered to be one of the most arid regions in the world, which makes it more conducive and vulnerable to suffering greater impacts from climate change. According to the IPCC, northeastern Brazil, being considered an arid and semi-arid region in its great majority, will be one of the regions that will suffer the most with an average above 1.5ºC, as was reported in the last 1.5º Report.

Ceará has a varied environment, with mangroves, caatinga, jungle, scrubland and tropical forest. The soil is, in general, thin and porous and does not retain moisture; consequently, the long dry season turns the country into a barren desert, relieved only by vegetation along the riverways and mountain ranges, and by the hardy, widely distributed Carnauba Palm (Copernicia cerifera), which in places forms groves of considerable extent. Some areas in the higher ranges of Serra da Ibiapaba, Serra do Araripe and others are more appropriate for agriculture, as their soil and vegetation are less affected by the dry seasons.

The most recent Drought Monitor map indicates that the area classified as having a weak drought has gone from 40.29% to 62.32%. The affected portion is located predominantly in the south-central part of the state.

According to the tool Drought Monitor, which has been coordinated by the National Water Agency (ANA) since 2017 with the support of the Ceará Foundation and Meteorology and Water Resources (FUNCEME) and still developed with several state and federal institutions, the increased transpiration of soil and vegetables as a result of the high temperatures observed in large part in the Northeast region in September, as well as the traditional scarcity of rainfall, caused some indicators to worsen.

Specifically in Ceará, the month of August – which serves as a reference for the composition of the most recent map – presented an average rain accumulation of only 0.6 mm. The average history, however, is also low: 4.9 mm, according to data from FUNCEME.
In view of the current scenario, it is observed that the central portion of the state has, according to the Drought Monitor, short- and long-term impacts, which means that there is a possibility of prolonged water deficits, pastures or crops not completely recovered.

Scenario like the one shown below becomes more common whenever periods of drought are lengthened, which directly affects the life of rural communities that have agricultural and livestock activities as a source of income.

Image of a visit by a Peace Rising representative in the Quixadá region. People fill drums with drinking water to sell in the region. Access to clean water can be a major problem, especially for the poorest people in the longest periods of drought.

What is the Organization’s role?

At this moment, CEPB has been contributing to the creation of an analysis model with the objective of providing effective information to governments and organizations, in order to supply key information for the creation of efficient policies that seek to reduce the impacts of climate change in the regions most affected, aiming above all to create objective scenarios to predict the climatic risk of these regions.

The organization’s plan includes contributing key data on the 08 municipalities that will be included in the first phase of the Ceará State Biodiversity Protection Plan, which aims not only at the conservation of the Caatinga biome, but also at creating sustainable development alternatives for the region, especially in the agriculture and livestock sectors.

The organization seeks to create a regional model of cooperation in the field of analysis of climatic and social data, with Ceará as the State model for the application of the first analyzes in order to obtain information on climate risk so that the best public policy is applied in the sense to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people, offering mainly adaptation to the effects of global warming.

For that to happen, your help is essential and conditional so that this work can continue and can be estended for regions with a similar climate context. Our work does not seek profit, as we are an NGO, however, we need to remain an organization so that we can offer professional status to everyone involved in our projects. Thus, in order for us to have a minimum of structure to implement our work and help governments and conditions to create more effective and efficient policies for the most vulnerable communities in this region of Brazil, it is essential that we receive your help as our partner.

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