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The Atlantic Rainforest is the most striking example of a conservation HOTSPOT – 93% of it’s original size were destroyed during the last 500 years. It is very rich in biodiversity and under continued threat! Just for your information: about 80% of the Amazon remains today. The worst, the Atlantic Rainforest is hardly known by anybody in the Western world – we all must change this!
The Atlantic Forest or „Mata Atlantica“ stretches along Brazil's Atlantic coast. It extends inland to eastern Paraguay and the province of Misiones in northeastern Argentina, and narrowly along the coast into Uruguay. Also included in this hotspot is the offshore archipelago of Fernando de Noronha and several other islands off the Brazilian coast.
The Atlantic Rainforest comprises 7 ecosystems with up to 5 altitudinal zones. Therefore, the biodiversity of the Atlantic Rainforest is particularly high. It comprises the second largest biosphere reserve on Earth. About 600 of Brazil's 900 conservation units are to be found in the Atlantic Rainforest.
The exceptional biodiversity of the ecosystems of the Atlantic Rainforest is related to its geological history, its tropical and subtropical position, severe climate changes in the past and substantial altitudinal differences from 0 to almost 3.000 m. The coastal mountain ranges „Serra do Mar“ and „Mantiqueira“ contain the highest peaks on the Atlantic side of the American continent. Additionally coastal rainforests are significantly richer in biodiversity than inland ones like.
The original size of the Atlantic Rainforest once covered over 1.23 million km2. Today a mere of 99 thousand km2 remain. That is less then 7%!
Even tough heavily deforested, the biome still holds a very high biological diversification with a high level of endemism. The Atlantic Rainforest harbor more then 20'000 tree species. In Southern Bahia (where the ARFI base camp is located) there were following counts recorded in only one hectare (size of a football field): 270 species of mammals (90 endemic), 372 amphibious (260 endemic), 197 reptiles (60 endemic), 849 birds (188 endemic), 2120 butterflies (948 endemic) and a world record of 456 trees. Once a species is extinct, it is gone forever!