Aimorés, MG - Brasil | 2020-07-03  
Information - Atlantic Rain Forest


The original Atlantic Rain Forest covered an area of well over 400,000 square miles of Brazilian territory, stretching the length of the country, from the states of Rio Grande do Norte to Rio Grande do Sul, with varying width. At certain points the forest reached as far as the present-day frontiers Argentina and Paraguay. In its full range, it extends as far as the basins of the Parana, Uruguay, Paraiba do Sul, Doce, Jequitinhonha and São Francisco rivers.


At present, the Atlantic Forest covers less than eight percent of its original area, visible in a very few remaining stretches. This drastic reduction is the result of a number of different cycles of exploitation during the history of Brazil (gold, sugarcane, coffee) and to the occupation of its original space by country’s largest cities and industrial centers. Regions once principal sources of agricultural resources have suffered from predatory exploitation and disorderly urbanization. Areas once covered by forests now account for over 70 per cent of Brazil’s GNP, are home to over 60 percent of the population, and are still counted on to supply water to over 100 million people. What remains, though, contains large tracts of the most fertile land in the country.


Despite this enormous devastation, the Atlantic Forest is still considered one of the planet’s richest repositories of biodiversity and, because of this, one of the most important - and threatened - biomasses of earth. This considerable wealth is so significant that the two major world records of botanical diversity for woodland plants have been registered in this biomass: 454 species in a single 2.5-acre area south of Bahia and 476 species in a similarly small area in the mountainous region of Espírito Santo. This diversity, together with forest ecosystems of highly differentiated structures and flora compositions, is explained by the dramatically-varied climatic characteristics of this vast region.


To grasp the richness of the genetic and topographic heritage of Brazil's Atlantic Forest, it is enough to note that 5 per cent of the tree species, and 40 per cent of the non- arboreal species present in the region are endemic to it, that is, they are to be found nowhere else on earth. Massive trees still hover over this biomass, among them the 130-foot tall high pink Jequitaba, with a trunk 13 feet in diameter. Other species also stand out: the Paraná pine, the cedar, several varieties of fig trees, the ipes, brauna and Brazilwood, among many others. Other rare species of trees florish in high altitude woodlands, such as the Serra do Mar (3,600 feet) metres) and Itatiaia (5,250 feet), that are always enveloped in mist.


As impressive as the vegetation of the region is its fauna. Among mammals living in the Atlantic Forest, 39 percent are found exclusively this area. In addition the largest number of species of Brazilian animals threatened with extinction are native to the Atlantic Forest: animals like the tamarin monkey, the otter, the jaguar, the giant armadillo and the small blue-macaw. Apart from these, opossums, anteaters, sloths, tapirs, deer, agoutis rodents and coatis raccoons also live in the area - surrounded by many others.


The objective of the Instituto Terra, along with the other organizations and associations involved in conserving the Atlantic Forest, is to guarantee a sustainable balance between human beings and the forest. But this is no small task since over 100 million residents already inhabit the region and exploit its resources.

Yet survival of the Atlantic Forest is of vital importance, not only to Brazilians but to humanity at large:

- It protects and regulates the water sources that supply the cities, among them some of Brazil’s largest metropoles;

- It controls the climate;

- It combats greenhouse gases by emitting oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide;

- It shelters a rich and vast biodiversity, including species threatened with extinction;

- It offers a landscape of exceptional beauty;

- It also preserves a historical heritage of inestimable value by sheltering various indigenous communities - seashore, riparian and Quilombola (descendants of escaped slaves) - which represent Brazil’s original cultural identity.


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