The Atlantic Forest Great Reserve hosts a few remnants of an ecosystem that is symbolic of southern Brazil. Dominated by the prehistoric Araucaria trees that were present in the Jurassic period (more than 200 million years ago), this vegetal formation is well-adapted to a cold climate with frosts. The forest shares space with mountain grasslands and its rocky outcrops. The araucaria forests are probably the most threatened habitat in the Atlantic Forest, serving as main habitat for the endangered vinaceous parrot (Amazona vinacea).
These are typical habitats sited on mountain tops of the Serra do Mar. Hard physical conditions such as high altitude, low temperatures and strong winds prevent the establishment of forests and promote a high diversity of grasses and small tress, many of which are endemic to these habitats. Amazing views wait for climbers visiting these environments!
Right below the previous habitats, the combination of milder temperatures, slower winds and high humidity gives place to these mysterious forests where mid-sized trees are covered by epiphytes, like orchids and bromeliads. These forests are home to the tiny, endemic and colorful Brachycephalus frogs, and act as sources of water for millions of people.
Below 800 meters, where slopes become gentler, the combination of rich soils with high precipitations allow for the establishment of a bewildering array of large and diverse trees that host one the most biodiverse habitats in the World. These lowland forests are as impressive and spectacular as those in the Amazons, and show the largest concentrations of large mammals and birds.
The Atlantic Forest Great Reserve houses numerous rivers, creeks and waterfalls, which snake through the forests bringing life, movement and freshness. They provide space to aquatic recreational activities such as bathing, rafting and kayaking. Crystalline and abundant water is produced by local forests throughout the year, serving to small towns and large cities across this region.
Where running waters slow down, many marshes and lagoons concentrate around rivers and springs. These habitats are priority areas for conservation, hosting many amphibians and reptiles. Also, one of such habitats hosts the only known population of the endangered Paraná antwren (Formicivora acutirostris). These wetlands are essential within the water cycle, acting both as reservoirs and purifying systems.
This region harbors several large estuarine bays where abundant freshwater produced in the forests meet oceanic salt waters. This is the realm of mangrove forests composed of resistant trees, whose roots are adapted to the tides and high salinity. The combination of rich nutrients with shelter turn mangroves into a highly productive ecosystem and an essential nursery for marine life. A boat ride through these vast and wild bays is an unforgettable experience, full of sightings of scarlet ibis, two species of dolphins and red-tailed amazons.
Restingas are coastal forests that grow on sandy soils with a strong influence from the sea. They are among the most endangered habitats due to land clearing for beach resorts. The border between restingas and lowlands forests serves as habitat for the endemic black-faced lion tamarin. The dunes present along the coast offer a dynamic environment, important for native species and leisure space for people. The region also hosts excellent samples of pristine beaches for the enjoyment of any visitor, which also serve as nesting grounds for green turtles.
The Atlantic Ocean finds in this region one of its richest portions within Brazil. Estuaries and bays guarantee the survival of rare species of marine life and also the possibility of performing diving and sport-fishing. The Atlantic Forest Great Reserve includes the marine platform up to 50 meters deep, peppered with several islands that contain both sandy beaches and rocky reefs.
Photography by Markus Mauthe, Lucas Pontes, Zig Koch, Reginaldo Ferreira, Marcos Amend & Acervo Associação MarBrasil