"Close to a lot of water, all is happy"

Understanding why the Federal District's Águas Emendadas Ecological Station is a vitally important water resource for Brazil and Latin America.

 <br>The title of this exhibition is based on the novel The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Guimarães Rosa. Who doesn't feel happy when they're close to flowing river water? It is this happiness that we need to protect and to do that, we need to understand and recognize how valuable conservation units such as the Águas Emendadas Ecological Station (ESECAE) are. As a symbolic place at the heart of Brazil—and a breathtaking one, too—we have to care for the Cerrado savanna so that we can protect what remains of the region. 

Estação Ecológica de Águas Emendadas (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

ESECAE Ecological Station

As a Conservation Unit belonging to the integral protection group, the Ecological Stations aim to preserve nature and carry out scientific research.

Águas Emendadas

In this sense, the Águas Emendadas Ecological Station (ESECAE) has contributed a lot to the generation of knowledge that will help conservation, management and perpetuation of non-Cerrado native species.

Located in the extreme northeast of the Federal District, in the Administrative Region of Planaltina, at a distance of 50 kilometers from the center of Brasília, ESECAE is home to important strategic water resources in the region (Córrego Fumal and Ribeirão Mestre D’Armas).

Estação Ecológica de Águas Emendadas e Zona de AmortecimentoMuseu do Cerrado

ESECAE was created in 1968 with 10.5 thousand hectares; it was one of the first biological reserves in the country. In 1992, the Ecological Station became part of the core area of ​​the Cerrado Biosphere Reserve, created by UNESCO and covering the states of Goiás, Tocantins, Maranhão, Piauí and the Federal District.

Espécie endêmica no Cerrado (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

ESECAE has a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Araras na Reserva Biológica de Águas Emendadas (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

Birds at ESECAE

There are 328 species of birds, including the rare osprey (Urubitinga coronata), miner quail (Nothura minor), rapazinho-dos-velhos (Nystalus maculatus), the white-browed warbler (Basileuterus leucophrys), gray hummingbird (Aphantochroa cirrochloris), the cardinal-of-goiás (Paroarai baeri) and the black maria (Knipolegus nigerrimus).

Lobo Guará (2016) by Rubens H. MatsushitaMuseu do Cerrado

Mammals at ESECAE

Its Cerrado area, practically intact, is home to endangered fauna such as the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), sussuarana (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), giant anteater (Mymercophaga tridactyla), the savannah bat (Lonchophylla dekeseri); the presence of the wood mouse (Kunsia fronto) stands out.

Perereca Usina (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

Amphibians at ESECAE

We emphasize the significance of the presence of two amphibian species endemic to the Cerrado: Boana lundii and Odontophrynus salvatori.

Vegetação da Reserva Biológica de Águas Emendadas (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

ESECAE brings together a mosaic of different types of vegetation representative of the Cerrado.

Vegetação típica do bioma Cerrado (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado


The typical vegetation found at ESECAE, and in the Cerrado generally, is made up of savanna, ranging from open fields to dense forests. At the Ecological Station, the predominant vegetation is called Cerrado <i>sensu stricto</i> (75.2%).  Dirty fields (with scattered shrubs and trees) cover 5% of the area, clean fields (with no trees or shrubs) 3.5%, floodable and well-drained riverside forest around 2.5%, and palm swamps 2.5%

Complexo de paisagens de vegetação do Cerrado (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

Palm Swamps

In the midst of these different vegetation landscapes in the Cerrado savanna, there are the palm swamps, which grow along water courses or around springs …

… and where typically lower-growing plants, such as grasses and sedges, predominate but where there are also woody plants such as the buriti palm (Mauritia flexuosa) and other trees that can grow up to 40 feet (12 m) in height. 

"I ask Buriti things; and he answers: my courage. Buriti wants all blue, and does not depart from its water - it lacks a mirror. Master is not the one who always teaches, but the one who suddenly learns. Why doesn't everyone get together, to suffer and win together, at once?" Guimarães Rosa in Grande Sertão: Veredas

Marco de criação da Reserva Biológica de "Águas Emendadas" (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

The name "Águas Emendadas" refers to a unique and important natural phenomenon, the same path pours water into two large hydrographic basins in Latin America. It is one of the most expressive geographic features in the national territory; its waters that spring there run in two opposite directions.

Paisagem Estação Ecológica de Águas Emendadas (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

The Maranhão River flows into the Tocantins River towards the north of the country and the São Bartolomeu River, which flows south until reaching the Paraná River Basin.

Nascentes, córregos e lagoa da Estação Ecológica de Águas EmendadasMuseu do Cerrado

In a 6-kilometer path, on flat terrain, water emerges at several points until it forms the streams, Brejinho, origin of the Paraná Basin, and Vereda Grande, starting point of the Tocantins/Araguaia Basin.

The ecological station also includes Lagoa Bonita, the source of the Mestre D’Armas stream and a place of outstanding beauty and environmental importance. In its surroundings there are Lagoa Joaquim Medeiros, Lagoa Bom Sucesso, as well as two smaller lagoons, such as Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Escura.

Esboço da área demarcada no Planalto Central do Brasil para ser o Distrito Federal (1892) by Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central, Missão CrulsMuseu do Cerrado

Cruls Mission

In addition to the environmental relevance, the historical and patrimonial importance of ESECAE is remarkable, having appeared in the first record of the region, made in the Report of the Exploration Commission of the Central Plateau, coordinated by Luís Cruls in 1892.

Esboço da área demarcada no Planalto Central do Brasil para ser o Distrito Federal, com os caminhos que ligam Pyrenopolis, Santa Luzia e Formosa (1892) by Comissão Exploradora do Planalto Central, Missão CrulsMuseu do Cerrado

Lagoa Bonita, as well as the path where the hydrological phenomenon known today as “Águas Emendadas” is located, was a reference used by Cruls Mission in choosing the area of ​​the Federal Capital.

 <br>“Nowhere else in Brazil is there a region that is comparable to this one. In this region, our three main river basins start, which makes it, orographically and hydrographically speaking ,a truly unique feature in our country.”<br>(Poli Coelho Report, 1946). 

Rivers in ESECAE (2021) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

International recognition

In 2018, Águas Emendadas was internationally recognized for making the connection between water, culture, and heritage, receiving the Water and Heritage Awareness Shield from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS Netherlands). To date, only five locations in the world have received this award.

Fazenda às margens da ESECAE (2021) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

Anthropic Pressure

The ecological station is under huge pressure from human activity as it is surrounded by ranches, farms, and settlements. Urban areas are also encroaching, whether as Planaltina expands or as land is constantly parceled off to build illegal condominiums. On large properties, the use of herbicides and other chemical inputs end up polluting the protected area.

BR-020 às margens da ESECAE (2021) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

Proof of this can be seen in the disappearance of bromeliads, despite the area being quite humid. The proximity to the BR-020, one of the busiest routes across the Federal District, is yet another item on the list of threats facing the Conservation Unit.    

Folhas secas de vegetação do Cerrado (2020) by Bruno CorrêaMuseu do Cerrado

Restricted visits

As this is a delicately balanced area and a Fully Protected Conservation Unit, the Águas Emendadas Ecological Station is not open to the public, except for researchers and guided visits.

"That is 'the most beautiful of mesopotamias,' as one of the writers of the 1891 constitution put it. [...] Attention immediately turned to this plateau in Goiás State, with its unparalleled geopolitical significance for Brazil. It can be included in the Amazon basin, the São Francisco basin, and the Platina basin." <br>(Poli Coelho Report, 1946). <br>

Credits: Story

Museu do Cerrado
Director General: Rosângela Azevedo Corrêa
Technical Director: Bruno Corrêa
Content Editor:  Rafael Alencar 
Text: Rosângela Corrêa
Photography: Bruno Corrêa, Afonso Santiago, and Rubens Matsushita


Comissão de Estudos para Localização da Nova Capital do Brasil. Relatório Técnico. (Study Commission for the Location of the New Capital of Brazil. Technical Report.) Part 1, vol. II. Rationale of the vote by the Head of the Commission, 1948.

FEDERAL DISTRICT. Program for protecting, planning, and managing the Águas Emendadas Ecological Station (ESEC-AE) and the Jardim Botânico Ecological Station (ESEC-JB). Brasília, 2008.

ROSA, João Guimarães. The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (Grande Sertão: Veredas). 19 ed. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 2001.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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