The largest tropical forest in the world is also one of the most endangered. The Atlantic Rainforest once covered the entire Brazilian coast and was found in 17 states. Today only 8% of its original forest survives, mainly confined to steep hillsides and mountainous areas. The largest sections of surviving forest can be found in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Paraná.
Nevertheless, the forest still preserves an impressive beauty and biodiversity. It is composed of various secondary ecosystems, such as highlands, valleys, hills, tropical and subtropical forests. Where the Atlantic Rainforest meets the ocean you will also find swamps, mangroves, sandbars and beaches.
Its wildlife is also impressively diverse. There are more than 800 known species of birds, ranging from the rare gavião-real (a type of hawk) to the tiny hummingbird. The forest is also home to 150 mammal species; unfortunately the mico-leão-dourado (the golden lion tamarin), the largest monkey in South America, is seriously endangered. A large number of edible fruit species, orchids, bromeliads and palm trees complete the lush forest landscape.
Numerous environmental groups are committed to protecting the Atlantic Rainforest. They are creating ecological corridors, essential for the survival of endemic species that have become isolated in small patches of remaining forest. NGO’s such as Conservation International and SOS Mata Atlântica work hard every day to protect the forest, educating the public, recruiting volunteers and developing projects.