Brazil Guide

Brazil Nature

The largest country in South America, Brazil’s unparalleled natural treasures include not only the dense tropical rainforests of the Amazon that covers almost half of the country. On the west is the Pantanal, the world's largest wetlands. Central Brazil is covered with Cerrado, or grassland and gallery forest habitat. Northeastern Brazil is caatinga desert, with patches of tropical moist forest on the coast. Southeastern Brazil hosts Atlantic rain forests, less well known than the Amazon but 20 million years older. The great Serra do Mar mountain range follows up much of the southeastern coast and inland north of Rio de Janeiro. In the upper altitudes of these mountains one finds Brazilian alpine and isolated mountain tops with many endemic species. The southern part of the country turns temperate, with grasslands, wetlands and stands of Araucaria pine forests. Given its awesome size, Brazil offers the tourist the opportunity to see many different ecosystems.

Many of Brazil’s plants and animals are found no where else on earth. Brazil’s sheer size, 3.3 million square miles—an area larger than the "lower 48" United States—and its abundant natural resources crystallize its importance. Brazil’s environmental health has the potential to impact all of us on a global scale.

Amazon Rain Forest
Dominates more than 40% of the national territory where is located the Mamirauá Project, the largest Sustainable Development Reserve in the world, that has over 1,124,000 ha of preserved forest.

The Amazon is the most biodiverse place on Earth. It harbors incredible wildlife and numerous indigenous cultures that maintain little or no contact with the outside world. The Amazon also plays a key role in regional and global carbon cycles and climate. The Amazon River Basin harbors nearly one-third of the world’s species and contains nearly one-quarter of the earth’s fresh water. In addition to its wealth of discovered and undiscovered flora and fauna, the Amazon is home to many diverse traditional and indigenous human populations.

Atlantic Rain Forest
This forest used to occupy over 30% of the country, from Bahia to Paraná, but nowadays, only 7% of this native forest remains untouched, mostly in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Paraná. An example of this exuberant forest can be seen in national parks like Parque Nacional da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, Parque Nacional do Itatiaia between the states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais and Parque Nacional do Iguaçu in the border of the state of Paraná and Argentina.

The Atlantic Forest of Brazil is also home to around 20,000 species of plants, representing 8% of the Earth’s plants. In fact, in the 1990s researchers from the New York Botanical Garden counted 458 tree species in 2.5 acres – more than double the number of tree species in the entire U.S. eastern seaboard. New species of flora and fauna continue to be discovered.

The forest structure of the Atlantic Forest contains multiple canopies that support an extremely rich vegetation mix. This includes an astonishing diversity of ferns, mosses and epiphytes (“air plants” or plants that attach to other plants), including lianas, orchids and bromeliads.

Pantanal
Is a swampy area in the interior of South America, between Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. During 4 months of the year, the rain floods the soil, changing the live of humans and animals. It is considered the cradle of an uncountable number of species, mostly birds, fishes and reptiles. It is the home of the carnivorous fish Piranha, the Brazilian jaguar, the beautiful Toucan and hundreds of other species.

The Pantanal is also one of the world’s most productive habitats. Annual floods, fed by tropical rains, create a giant nursery for aquatic life, including 260 species of fish. As the waters recede in the dry season, the Pantanal attracts a great influx of birds and other animals — one of the hemisphere’s greatest natural phenomena.

Caatinga
The Caatinga is a semi-arid scrub forest situated in the northeast of Brazil. It is extremely rich in natural resources but when compared to the rain forests there is little available information on its biodiversity. The Caatinga is so altered that only a few ecologically important examples of natural habitat remain. The most amazing fact is the Caatinga is unique to Brazil yet only 1% of its habitats are protected.

The Caatinga occupies 11% of the Brazilian territory stretching across 300,000 square miles of the subequatorial zone.

The Caatinga is one of the most populated semi-arid regions in the world and its human occupation dates back to pre-historic times. Rudimentary agriculture and the intense use of natural resources have increased degradation of the land. The Conservancy is the only international conservation organization currently working in the Caatinga.

Cerrado
An ecosystem that is a transition among the first three ones. It is an amazing environment with mixed characteristics depending on what part of the country you are. Sometimes it looks more similar to the Amazon, others to the Pantanal and so far.

The Cerrado is the world’s most biologically rich savanna. It has over 10,000 species of plants, of which 45% are exclusive to the Cerrado, and it stretches across nearly 500 million acres of Brazil - an area nearly three times the size of Texas. The Cerrado also feeds three of the major water basins in South America: the Amazon, Paraguay and São Francisco Rivers.

Fernando de Noronha
One jewel of the Brazilian nature is Fernando de Noronha, a national park in an archipelago of 21 islands. Its permanent population is small (roughly 1,500 people), living in total area of only 26km² (10 miles²). Vila dos Remédios, the largest island, is the only one inhabited, preserving the wonderful beaches and the incredible marine life of the park. The tourist needs a permission to get in and have the limit of 7 days to stay in the park. All efforts are made to permit tourism with environmental sustainability.

Indigenous Peoples
Nature Conservancy scientists are melding high-tech science and traditional indigenous knowledge to create “ethno-maps” of the Amazon. Satellite images of a one-million-acre region were given to indigenous communities in the Amazon, and community members used colored pencils to highlight landscape features, animal and plant populations, and environmental stress points. The community was able to show conservationists where they traditionally hunted, where they noticed declines in certain animal populations, and where villages had stood and moved to over the years.

The maps will be used by indigenous leaders and the Conservancy to jointly develop management plans that will include areas for protection and sustainable resource extraction. An ethno-map has been completed for the 1.2-million-acre Uaca Indigenous Territory in the north of the state of Amapa on the border between Brazil and French Guiana, and additional project sites have been identified.

Elsewhere in the Amazon, related projects are helping community conservation among the Pemón people of Venezuela and a number of indigenous groups in the Peruvian Amazon, especially the Ashaninka.

Sao Goncalo
Rio de Janeiro Beaches