The Atlantic Rainforest preserves a large quantity of Medicinal plants, many not yet properly studied, an important legacy to Medicine.

The endemic level rises significantly when flora is grouped, reaching 53.5% for arboreal species, 64% for palm trees and 74.4% for bromeliads.

The Atlantic Rainforest is vital for the ecosystem; it regulates climate, temperature, humidity and rain.

The situation is critical, it has been reduced to 7.3% about 23.227.904 acres of its original area, which was at least 318.935.680 acres. Even these percentages are not distributed evenly in all forestal areas that form this biome. Several areas are poorly maintained, almost extinct, or under represented in the conservation efforts.

Even with an accelerated devastation, the Atlantic Rainforests still harbors a significant parcel of the Brazilian biological diversity, with high levels of endemism. Of the 202 endangered animal species, 171 are found in the Atlantic Rainforest.

The atlantic Rainforest extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from the Northern state of Rio Grande do Norte to the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul and inland as far as Paraguay and the Misiones province in Argentina.

The Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlântica) is quite different from its much more famous neighbor, the Amazon Rainforest. Like the Amazon, it is humid, with an average annual rainfall of about 2000 mm or 78.74 inches: however, it is cooler here with temperatures ranging on average from (14-21°C) 57-70° Fahrenheit compared to (26-37 °C) 77-98° Fahrenheit in the Amazon. The greater variations in temperature help contribute to the rainforest’s immense variety of plants and animals.

Within the Amazon Basin, the rainforest lies at more or less the same altitude. However, the Atlantic Rainforest stretches between Rio Grande do Norte to Rio Grande do Sul, and spreads from the coast up into the mountains. The vegetation of the forest varies greatly, according to latitude and altitude and as a result there are several different classes of forest. This, too, means that the Atlantic Rainforest can lay claim to a far greater biodiversity than even that of the Amazon Rainforest. The different classes of rainforest featured within the Atlantic Rainforest are:

  • Tropical moist broadleaf forest
  • Found on coastal plains, it is characterized by a dense population of tall trees, a second, sparser layer of smaller trees, shrubs and palms, and a large number of lianas and epiphytes. No large area of this forest remains;

  • Tropical semi-deciduous forest
  • Found further inland.

    In the south of Brazil this forest is interspersed by Araucaria pines, the forest has an upper canopy of about 30m or 97 ft, below which grows a second layer with a canopy height of about 20m or 65 ft. Some trees are deciduous, others evergreen.

    The lower mountain forest — found at altitudes over 800m or 2624 ft above sea level — has a thinner canopy about 12-25m high 39-82 ft, denser undergrowth and a great biological diversity. Above 1200m of 3937 ft the forest generally gives way to shrubby vegetation and grassland.

    The mangrove forests found in bays, estuaries and lagoons, and the xeromorphic coastal dune forests called the “Restinga” are also found within the Atlantic Rainforest ecosystem. Both are under severe threat.

    Enormous biological richness:

    Just in the State of Minas Gerais alone (slightly smaller than Texas), there are 750 different bird species only 60 fewer than are found in the whole of North America. An extraordinary number of the species found here are endemic to this region — that is, they are not found anywhere else in the world. 54% of the trees are endemic, as are 64% of the palms and 74% of the bromeliads. Among the fauna species, 80% of the primates are endemic, and 40% of all mammals, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians and birds.

    This enormous biological richness is very severely threatened. Figures published by IBAMA, the Brazilian Environmental Protection Institute, in 2003 show that 38 of the 69 severely endangered mammal species in Brazil are found in the Mata Atlântica (25 of them endemic), all the16 endangered amphibian species (all of them endemic), 118 of the 160 bird species, and 13 of the 20 endangered reptile species. Taking a closer look at just the primates, there are 21 species and subspecies of monkeys found in the Atlantic Rainforest, of which 14 are endangered. Of these 14, thirteen are species found nowhere else in the world and several of these are literally on the edge of extinction: the Woolly Spider Monkey is in greater danger of extinction than the Mountain Gorilla, with only around 500 of them alive in the world.

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