Melting Pot of Speciation
Climb up the hills, mountains, and plateaus of the Pernambuco Interior Forests and you'll encounter an incredible diversity of species, many of them endemic. These forests, together with the neighboring Pernambuco Coastal Forests, form a unique hotspot of diversity known as the "Pernambuco Center." Here you'll find numerous antbirds, tree frogs, ocelots, and much, much more. This region is biogeographically very important for many species and is considered a "melting-pot" of speciation in eastern South America.
The Pernambuco Interior Forests are located in a narrow strip of land 30 miles (50 km) wide between the ecoregions of Pernambuco Coastal Forests and Caatinga, in northeastern Brazil. The climate is tropical, with an annual rainfall around 50 to 70 inches (1250 to 1750 mm) and with a distinct dry period between October and March. Here, forests cover low-altitude plateaus and rise up the slopes of the Borborema Plateau, about 2,600 feet (800 m) above sea level. Patches of this ecoregion also extend into the neighboring caatinga scrub habitat to the west. The forests have multiple canopy layers, with the tallest trees surpassing 115 feet (35 m). Because of the pronounced dry season, some of the trees lose their leaves during this season and are thus semi-deciduous.
Among lush palms and ferns, a scalloped antbird hops from branch to branch as it follows a swarm of army ants. As these vicious ants move through the understory, virtually everything attempts to get out of the way, including numerous insects that take flight ahead of the swarm. As the insects escape from the ants, they're snatched up by the antbirds. A rather large hopping rodent, the cutia, hides among the leaves of a fallen tree as a curious ocelot sniffs the air and moves on. A tree frog deposits several eggs in a pool of water formed by heavy rains. It will do this in several pools to ensure the survival of at least a few tadpoles should the pools dry up. A loud whirring sound overhead, and a flash of white and purple feathers, give away the passing of a white-winged cotinga on his way to a nearby fruit tree.
Cause for Concern
Deforestation for fuel, timber, agriculture, and cattle ranching has removed 95 percent of the original vegetation. Today, most of the forests are represented by small isolated fragments--some of which represent the last stand for many endemic species.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001