Atlantic Forests - A Global Ecoregion

Two of the world's largest cities lie within this ecoregion

Snapshot: Ecoregion 48

1,234,000 sq. km (476,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Southeastern coast of South America: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay

Conservation Status:

Quiz Time!

Why are maned sloths hard to spot in the wild?

Maned sloths and other sloths are often hard to see in the wild because their fur has patches of green that blend in well with the surrounding trees. Believe it not, those green patches are made up of green algae that live within microscopic grooves and notches in the sloth's hairs!

About the Area
This Global ecoregion is made up of the following terrestrial ecoregions: Ilha Grande mangroves; Rio São Francisco mangroves; Araucaria moist forests; Rio Piranhas mangroves; Bahia mangroves; Pernambuco coastal forests; Bahia coastal forests; Bahia interior forests; Caatinga Enclaves moist forests; Parañá-Paraíba interior forests; Pernambuco interior forests; Campos Rupestres montane savanna; Serra do Mar coastal forests; Atlantic Coast restingas.

Long isolated from the Amazon Basin by the drier Cerrado region to its west, the Atlantic Forest ecoregion fostered the evolution of many distinctive plant and animal communities. For example, 92% of the forests amphibians are found nowhere else on Earth.

Many of these endemic organisms now persist in mere islands of forest, all that is left after centuries of clearing for agriculture and urban development. In fact, of the 1 million square kilometres (386,000 square miles) of original Atlantic Forest that once blanketed the coast of Brazil, only 7% now remains.

Local Species
Four species of small primates called lion tamarins inhabit the trees, including Golden-headed lion tamarin (L. chrysomelas), Black-faced lion tamarin (L. caissara), Black lion tamarin (L. chrysopygus), and the highly endangered Golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia).

Other mammal species include the Muriqui or Wooly spider monkeys (Brachyteles arachnoides), and the Maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus) - slow-moving animals with long black plumes on their neck and shoulders. Birds include Red-necked tanager (Tangara cyanocephala), and many endemics such as the Red-billed currasow (Crax blumenbachii), Seven-coloured tanager (Tanagara fastuosa), Blue-bellied parrot (Triclaria malachitacea), and the Three-toed jacamar (Jacamaralcyon tridactyla).

Two of the world's largest cities - Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, lie within the Atlantic Forests ecoregion, indicating the challenge of conserving the remaining habitat in the area. In a recent study, just 2.5 acres (one hectare) of the forest were found to have 450 different species of trees! Protecting this diversity while meeting the needs of growing metropolitan and rural populations is a serious challenge.

Urbanisation, industrialisation, logging, agricultural expansion, and associated road building threaten this globally important region of biological diversity. Habitat loss, hunting, and the wildlife trade threaten many species.

Given the high levels of local richness and endemism and the extensive loss of natural habitat, over 95% in many areas, the probability of species extinctions is high without intensive conservation efforts. Relatively extensive, but generally unprotected blocks of forest remain in the southern portion of the ecoregion, particularly in Argentina and Paraguay.


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