Atlantic Forest

The Mata Atlântica, the " Atlantic Rain Forest ," is a form of vegetation that extends on the east coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte to Rio Grande do Sul and into the interior of the continent to Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Argentina and Paraguay. It is separated by the savanna region ( Cerrado ) of the central highlands and the north-eastern drylands ( Sertão ) of the much larger and better-known tropical rainforest of the Amazon basin.


Due to the deforestation that took place mainly in the 20th century, the area was extremely reduced. The Mata Atlântica is one of the most endangered tropical forests today. Biodiversity is one of the highest in the world, although only exist discontinuous residues. The Mata Atlântica covered not only the often narrow coastal plains, but especially the steep slopes of the Brazilian Highlands, as emerged in the smallest space large differences in vegetation and wildlife. The steep slopes are still the best-preserved sections of the forest, even in the vicinity of large cities such as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. In total, there were about 1.29 million km ², 15 % of the area of Brazil, 1% is left. Of 95,000 km ², which are left, 75 % are at high risk. International and national protection measures are necessary. Relatively small areas fall as a national park or similar under the SNUC ( Sistema Nacional de Unidades de of Conservation ). Effective protection is lack of on-site personnel often not possible.

In 1993, the Atlantic Forest was declared in 14 states of Brazil, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 17 states were more or less covered by the Mata Atlântica. From north to south these are (in each case with the proportion of the total area of the state ):

  • Piauí, 9%
  • Ceará, 3%
  • Rio Grande do Norte, 6%
  • Paraíba, 12%
  • Pernambuco, 18%
  • Alagoas, 52 %
  • Sergipe, 32 %
  • Bahia, 31 %
  • Goiás, 3%
  • Espírito Santo, 100 %
  • Minas Gerais, 45 %
  • Rio de Janeiro, 99 %
  • São Paulo, 80 %
  • Mato Grosso do Sul, 14 %
  • Paraná, 97 %
  • Santa Catarina, 99 %
  • Rio Grande do Sul, 47 %


Due to the trade winds, the Mata Atlântica tropical forest extends as far uncommon in subtropical regions. This was not always so, during the Ice Age were large areas dry forest or even semi-deserts.

The exploration and development of Brazil by Europeans started from the discovery in 1500 of a number of coastal towns. Early reports mention the coastal forest a dense, almost pristine forest, which was inhabited by many indigenous peoples, including the Wassu, Pataxó, Tupiniquim, Geren, Guarani, Krenak, Kaiowa, Ñandeva, Terena, Kadiweu, Potiguar, Kaingang, Guarani M ' Bya.

In 1502 the first commercial contract was signed for the exploitation of the wood; the brazilwood gave the country its name ( Terra Brasilis ). In addition to timber, the Europeans won from the coastal forest hides and skins of jaguars, snakes, capybaras, caimans and other animals, turtle shells and feathers.

In northeastern Brazil the coastal forest for the cultivation of sugar cane was almost completely cleared. In the south of the coffee cultivation became the main cause of deforestation.

Between 1990 and 1995 about 5,000 square kilometers were deforested, in relation to the surface which is more than in the Amazon region. The largest forest areas are still in Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná, especially in the first three of the inventory by urbanization and urban sprawl is under pressure.

From a study published in 2009 shows that 80 percent of the remaining forest area consists of pieces of less than 0.5 square kilometers, or 1.4 miles apart in the middle; thus was the migration of animals between the remaining surfaces extremely difficult. In addition, only 14 percent of these areas are designated as protected areas.


The species richness of the Mata Atlântica is higher than that of the Amazon basin. Due to the differences in altitude and latitude, the differences in flora and fauna are very high. Because of the high rainfall particularly on the mountain slopes there is a dense vegetation. Up to 60 meter high trees form a closed green blanket under which there is an always moist and shady microclimate. In several layers different types of plants grow.

Typical and common plants are mosses, CIPOS, bromeliads and orchids. Including the insects there are supposedly 1.6 million species. At least 8,000 plant and animal species are endemic: 55% of the tree species, 70 % of bromeliads, 64% of the palm trees, 39 % of mammals, 160 bird species and 183 amphibian. Certainly for many species have become extinct before they were cataloged. Endangered animal species such as Collar sloth, marmoset and tamarins.

Protecting the Mata Atlântica

In 1988, the Mata Atlântica as national heritage protection by the Constitution. Laws govern now that the forest is protected and that the exploitation of the secondary forest is regulated. Depending on the use of regional institutions and individuals the destruction is stopped or the surface is extended with native vegetation.

There are 712 protected areas ( state 131, 443 federal, 14 urban, 124 private). Some of the best known:

  • In Bahia Chapada Diamantina, the Marine Park Abrolhos,
  • Espírito Santo in the Zen monastery Morro da Vargem,
  • In Minas Gerais Caraça (private), National Park Serra do Cipó,
  • In Mato Grosso do Sul Serra da Bodoquena,
  • In Rio de Janeiro Serra dos Órgãos, Tijuca National Park, National Park Itatiaia, Serra da Bocaina, Serra da Mantiqueira
  • In São Paulo Cantareira, Juréia, Ilha Anchieta,
  • In Paraná Iguaçu National Park, Vila Velha, Ilha do Mel,
  • In Rio Grande do Sul Serra Geral,

In 1999, UNESCO designated two areas as a World Heritage Site: the Southeastern Atlantic Forest in São Paulo and Paraná, and the Costa do Descobrimento ( "Coast of discovery " ) and Espírito Santo, Bahia.

Many citizens' groups and NGOs across the country, mainly in the south and southeast, working for the protection and reforestation of the Mata Atlântica. About talk ONGs de Mata Atlântica they have networked themselves.


About 2 /3 of the Brazilian population living in the former territory of the Mata Atlântica. Today's economic exploitation, however, has to do with the previous vegetation little. Important today are the headwaters of many rivers and the role as a climate regulator. New uses are to study plants for medicinal purposes and ecotourism.