Spanning an area across eight countries, including Brazil, the Amazon includes the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world. It also holds the Amazon River, which is over 6,600 kilometres long. Home to an incredible one in ten of all known species on Earth, the rich biodiversity of the Amazon is thought to include 40,000 plant species, more than 370 reptile species and 3,000 freshwater fish species, with potentially many millions of species yet to be described. There are also more than 30 million people living in the Amazon, including 350 different ethnic groups, with more than 60 of these groups still living largely in isolation.
The Amazon is extremely important, providing jobs, food and water for millions of people, as well as being the largest land based “carbon sink” as it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. The Amazon is threatened by deforestation for cattle ranching, illegal logging and gold mining. From 2004 the annual deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon were generally falling steadily, but in 2012-2013 there was an increase. Despite this increase, the deforestation rate in 2012-2013 was still the second lowest Brazil has seen in the past 25 years. In the Brazilian Amazon there are currently 310 protected areas covering 26.14 percent of the area.
Covering 24 percent of Brazil, the Cerrado is the largest woodland-savannah in South America. Its diverse landscape includes dry grasslands, wetlands and forest areas. Renowned as one of the world’s richest savannahs, the Cerrado is home to 5 percent of all known species in the world and three out of ten Brazil species. Animals found here include the maned wolf, the giant armadillo and the marsh deer and 12,000 plant species have been identified.
As one of the most threatened regions in Brazil, only 20 percent of the Cerrado’s original vegetation remains intact, with the main threats including unsustainable agricultural activities, predominately from soy production and cattle ranching, and the burning of vegetation. Currently less than 3 percent of the Cerrado is under effective protection.
A World Natural Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, the Pantanal is the world’s largest freshwater wetland system extending across central-western Brazil, eastern Bolivia and eastern Paraguay. Made up of flooded grasslands, savannah and tropical forests, the Pantanal supports a wide range of wildlife including about 3,500 plant, 656 bird and 159 mammal species. Receiving an average yearly rainfall of between 1,000-1,400 millimetres, over 80 percent of the Pantanal floodplains become submerged during the rainy seasons.
Despite being regarded as the most preserved wetland in the world, less than 2 percent of the Pantanal is under government protection. Threats to the Pantanal include expanding human settlement, unsustainable agriculture and illegal mining.
Found on the east coast of South America, the Atlantic forest stretches along the coast of Brazil and extends into Paraguay and Argentina. One of the most diverse and biologically rich forests in the world, the Atlantic forest is also one of the most threatened, with only around 8 percent of its original cover remaining.
The Atlantic forest possesses a diverse range of species with an incredible 8 percent of the world’s plant species being found there. In addition to its huge plant diversity, the Atlantic forest is also home to an astonishing range of animal life including around 264 mammal species, 936 bird species and 311 reptile species.
Major conservation initiatives for the Atlantic forest include the establishment of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve, which extends through 14 Brazilian states, and projects such as the Brazilian Natural World Heritage Sites Program and the Central Biodiversity Corridor.
Find out more about the Atlantic forest by visiting our Atlantic forest page.
The Caatinga is a dry forest region, composed of small woody and herbaceous species, cactuses and bromeliads, located in the semi-arid area of north-eastern Brazil. Rich in bird biodiversity, there are 510 bird species found in the Caatinga, including some of the most threatened birds in the world like the Lear’s macaw and Spix’s macaw.
Endemism is high among the plants, with 380 of the 932 identified plant species in the Caatinga not being found anywhere else. This area is also home to 158 mammal, 107 reptile and 49 amphibian species.
Threats to the Caatinga include overuse of grazing, unsustainable timber extraction and uncontrolled fires, with at least 50 percent of the Caatinga having already been changed in a major way or completely converted from its native vegetation. Less than 1 percent of this area is in strictly protected parks or reserves but one of Brazil’s best managed National parks, the Parque Nacional da Serra da Capivara, is located in the Caatinga.