The Cerrado is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. In the last 35 years, more than 50% of its approximately 2 million km² has been transformed into pasture and agricultural lands planted in cash crops. The Cerrado has the richest flora among the world's savannas (>7000 species) and high levels of endemism. Species richness of birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and insects is equally high, whereas mammal diversity is relatively low. Deforestation rates have been higher in the Cerrado than in the Amazon rainforest, and conservation efforts have been modest: only 2.2% of its area is under legal protection. Numerous animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, and an estimated 20% of threatened and endemic species do not occur in protected areas. Soil erosion, the degradation of the diverse Cerrado vegetation formations, and the spread of exotic grasses are widespread and major threats. The use of fire for clearing land and to encourage new growth for pasture has also caused damage, even though the Cerrado is a fire-adapted ecosystem. Ecosystem experiments and modeling show that change in land cover is altering the hydrology and affecting carbon stocks and fluxes. Cerrado agriculture is lucrative, and agricultural expansion is expected to continue, requiring improvements in and extension of the transportation infrastructure, which will affect not only the Cerrado but also the Amazon forest. Large-scale landscape modification and threats to numerous species have led to renewed interest from various sectors in promoting the conservation of the Cerrado, particularly through strengthening and enlarging the system of protected areas and improving farming practices and thus the livelihoods of local communities.