Brazil includes 44 ecoregions that occur entirely or partly within the country as shown in the figure below:  Marajó varzea;  Guianan moist forests;  Guyanan savanna;  Gurupa varzea;  Uatuma-Trombetas moist forests;  Rio Negro campinarana;  Guianan piedmont and lowland moist forests;  Pantepuis;  Negro-Branco moist forests;  Caqueta moist forests;  Japurá-Solimoes-Negro moist forests;  Monte Alegre varzea;  Juruá-Purus moist forests;  Purus varzea;  Southwest Amazon moist forests;  Iquitos varzea;  Purus-Madeira moist forests;  Madeira-Tapajós moist forests;  Tapajós-Xingu moist forests;  Xingu-Tocantins-Araguaia moist forests;  Tocatins/Pindara moist forests;  Amazon-Orinoco-Southern Caribbean magroves;  Maranhão Babaçu forests;  Northeastern Brazil restingas;  Caatinga Enclaves moist forests;  Atlantic Coast restingas;  Southern Atlantic mangroves;  Pernambuco coastal forests;  Pernambuco interior forests;  Caatinga;  Atlantic dry forests;  Campos Rupestres montane savanna;  Bahia coastal forests;  Bahia interior forests;  Cerrado;  Mato Grosso seasonal forests;  Beni savanna;  Chiquitano dry forests;  Pantanal;  Humid Chaco;  Alto Parana Atlantic forests;  Uruguayan savanna;  Araucaria moist forests;  Serra do Mar coastal forests
Ilha Ubinha, Brazil Photograph by WWF/ Anthony Anderson This forest ecoregion is located at the mouth of the Amazon River in eastern Brazil. Islands are numerous throughout the region. This flooded area captures nutrient rich soils, which are carried down the river; tidal activity floods the region twice daily. Vegetation is shorter than surrounding areas, plant diversity is lower, and palms dominate. Fauna diversity is richer; avifauna is particularly rich with about 540 species.
The Marajó várzea, because it lies at the mouth of the Amazon’s "super highway," is a region greatly affected by human activities, both historically and in the present. Both the natural habitat and native biodiversity of the Marajó várzea have suffered severe degradation from large-scale agricultural, forestry, and ranching operations. There are no protected areas in this ecoregion.
The Guianan Moist Forests are one of the largest continuous tracts of relatively pristine lowland tropical rainforest in the world. The southern boundary is formed by the watershed of the Acarai Mountains and Serra Tumucumaque, which also is the international border between Brazil and the northern Guianan countries of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana (an overseas department of France). A small portion to the east includes the upper tributaries of the lower Amazon in Brazil.
This ecoregion is characterized by high species richness and local and regional endemism, particularly among the flora, as well as relatively intact ecological processes. Species assemblages are shared with the Orinoco and Amazon Basins, and with the Guianan highlands and Tepuis formations – and is thus a convergence zone for speciation. These lowland forests were relatively intact until recently; gold mining, wildlife export, logging, and hunting are now encroaching on the area and will increase exponentially if unregulated.
Cajari Reserve, Amapa, Brazil Photograph by © WWF-Canon/Juan Pratginestos Also call Guianan savanna, this ecoregion occupies an area within the Roraima formation distinguished by extensive savannas and schrubby vegetation.
The savanna encompasses the treeless and tree patch mosaic of the Gran Sabana, and occurs as three distinct outliers: the largest spanning northern Brazil, southeastern Venezuela, and southeastern Guyana (also several small patches extending north along the Pakarima footfills); a smaller patch bordering northern Brazil and extending into southern Suriname, and the smallest and most elongate outlier, that occurs in eastern Brazil north of the Amazon extending from near Macapa to near Calcoene.
The region is traversed by streams with gallery forests, and extensive savannas. In this ecoregion, recurrent fires and extremely poor soils are the most important factor in the advance of savannas in place of forest and the processes that are derived by these changes. Comparing with Guyanan Tepuis, endemism is low; however, an important number of endemics are found.
Mount Roraima National Park at Brazil, covering 1,160 km2, and the Parque Indigena Tucumaque protect portions of the savannas.
The Gurupa várzea ecoregion is named for the large alluvial island, Ilha Grande de Gurupá, that occurs in the mouth of the Amazon River. Extending from the mouth of the Tapajós River at the city of Santarém to the Xingu River, which drains into the mouth of the Amazon itself. It is distinct from the flanking várzea ecoregions in that a majority of the landscape is savanna rather than dense tropical forest. The Xingú, Jari, and Tapajós Rivers, which drain into this lowest section of the Amazon River, are blackwater rivers that carry little, if any, sediment. The ocher-colored Amazon River is considered a whitewater river because it carries suspended organic and inorganic sediment loosed from the Andes. The term várzea refers to land that is inundated by overflow from whitewater rivers.
The flooded forests of this várzea ecoregion exemplify the incredible adaptability of species. Trees, grasses, and shrubs can be partially submerged under water for months at a time. Animals and fish move to and from the area in synchronization with the floods to feast on the fruits produced by the trees. In addition, the resident species that live in these tropical savannas have very high diversity with many endemic species, such as the scaled spinetail.
The Amazon várzea has a long history of human occupation because of their high productivity and accessibility. Principle activities on the Gurupa várzea are subsistence agriculture, fishing, selective logging, and ranching. Much of the forest along these banks of the Lower Amazon have been cleared and the natural savannas altered to expand pasture area for cattle or water buffalo. The production systems of small holder farmers tend to be biologically diverse agroecosystems with a strong tree component, so land degradation does not generally occur where small-scale farmers live. Much of the forest that remains is managed or unmanaged secondary forest. A few urban centers such as Monte Alegre are located on the riverbank in this region, and urban sprawl has replaced some natural habitat. The major commercial timber species such as Virola surinamensis and Ceiba pentandra are all but depleted in this region.
The Uatuma-Trombetas moist forests ecoregion comprise the vast region north of the Amazon River in the eastern portion of Brazil, east of the Rio Branco-Rio Negro Basin. The region extends east almost to the Atlantic Coast and north to the Serra do Acarai Santa de Tumucumaque Mountains dividing the Guianas and Suriname from Brazil.
This large ecoregion with its evergreen tropical forests, falls in the eastern section of Amazonia. Due to ecoregion wide changing topography and associated climate variations, the ability to support a wide range of species both flora and fauna, elevates this ecoregion to a level of high biological diversity. With mainly blackwater rivers flowing through the ecoregion the soils are not as fertile as many of the other ecoregions yet there were 235 species of trees counted in one hectare and at least 5 species of primates, restricted to eastern Amazonia, found here.
Much of the interior of this region remains intact, but there is considerable deforestation along the major rivers and roads, particularly between Óbidos and Monte Alegre along the Amazon River, around Manaus, and north along the road to Nova Paraiso. Several protected areas and biological research stations have been established near Manaus, and the Rio Trombetas Biological Reserve covers 3,850 square kilometers of dense tropical forest, riverine forest, and lake vegetation along with the Jari Ecological Station further east which covers 2,271 km2. The Balbina Dam in the southwest of this region, along the Rio Uatumã, has drowned thousands of acres of upland forest.
Campinarana habitat is very unique with vegetation adapted to extremely poor soil types, leading to a high number of endemic species. There are multiple vegetative layers in this one ecoregion, moving from herbaceous savannas with lichens and grasses through stages to trees and forests. With this structure comes a wide variety of primitive faunal species including at least four species of primates and plant species that are exclusive to the compinarana ecoregion.
The ecoregion as a whole, comprising large, isolated patches, is fairly intact. None however, falls within a protected area. Because of the low productivity of these areas, there is little intensive land use on them, in general although some cattle grazing and burning has degraded portions of them.
Guianan piedmont and lowland moist forests
The Guayana Highlands ecoregion in northern South America is host to an archipelago of isolated sandstone plateaus and dramatic summits atop nearly vertical escarpments.
More than 50 of the highest tabletop mountains are the remains of the ancient sandstone tableland overlying the even more ancient granitic Guayana Shield. They range from 1,000 to 3,000 meters (m) in elevation. And they are called tepuis (singular: tepui), a word from the Pemón Amerindians.The ecoregion is also referred to as Pantepuis.
Many tepuis are graced with dramatic waterfalls, the tallest of which (in fact, the tallest in the world) is Angel Falls in Venzuela dropping 979 meters.
These dramatic features in the landscape perforate an extensive matrix of highland savannas and rain forests across southern Venezuela mostly, with a few outliers in western Guyana, Suriname, and northern most Brazil. Hundreds of smaller sandstone mountains exist in the ecoregion as well.
Due to the inaccessibility of both the steep slopes and high summits of the Tepui Mountains, much of the natural habitat is intact. However, there have been many anthropogenic changes. Human-induced fires at the base of the mountains have destroyed vegetation in extensive areas. The mountains above 800 m are designated protected conservation areas as natural monuments, national parks, or biosphere reserves. However, because of the remoteness of the mountains, enforcement of conservation regulations by reserve staff is difficult; illegal activities such as gold mining and burning proceed unchecked.
T Médio Rio Negro II Indigenous Reserve he Negro-Branco ecoregion abuts to the northern banks of the Rio Negro, along the southwestern edge of the Guayana Shield in eastern Colombia, southwestern Venezuela, and northwestern Brazil. This area consists of forested lowland plains, with some wide, rolling hill-lands, and low sandstone table mountains. This area hosts diverse plant communities, including both seasonally flooded and non-flooded tall evergreen lowland forests, that can reach 40 meters (m) in height, as well as low evergreen flooded palm forests, which reach only 20 m in height. Elevations range from 120 m-400 m and annual precipitation is between 2,000-3,000 millimeters (mm).
Due to the inaccessibility of this ecoregion, the forest remains largely intact. No paved roads exist here although unpaved roads exist to the north and west of the ecoregion in Colombia. People living in settlements along the rivers practice small-scale rotational agriculture, and boat traffic along the rivers brings loggers and merchants. Brazil nut collectors set fire to the lower portion of the forest as a management practice. This alters the understory in some stands, but this is a localized practice. The largest biosphere reserve in the tropics, the Alto Orinoco-Casiquiare Biosphere Reserve, in Venezuela lies mostly in this ecoregion. In Brazil a small portion of this ecoregion lies within the Pico da Neblina National Park.
Apaporis River, Colombia Photograph by WWF/ Aldo Brando The Caquetá moist forest occurs in the Colombian Amazon. It is bound on the northeast by the Guainía, Guaviare, and Guayabero rivers and to the western extreme at the small Rio Losada, south of the Serrania de la Macarena. The southern border of the region extends southeast from the headwaters of the Rio Caguan, which then converges with the Caquetá. The region extends east just into Brazil. The Apaporis, Vaupés, and Yari rivers dissect this region, and large expanses of seasonally flooded forest occur on their banks.
Flora diversity is rich as is a transitional area between these floristic provinces of the Amazon Basin forests and the Guayana region. Fauna diversity is high although endemism is not. A few species that are endemic include the Chiribiquete emerald (Chlorostilbon olivaresi) and grey-legged tinamou (Crypturellus duidae), and tamarin (Saguinus inustus). Large-scale cattle ranching poses the most serious threat to this ecoregion. Large tracts of forest have been logged to cultivate pastures for grazing.
Ocelot (Felis pardalis) Photograph by Edward Mendell This region of dense tropical rain forest is situated on the lowland plateau in the central northern portion of the Amazon Basin in Brazil with tiny sections just touching Colombia and Venezuela. This interfluvial region extends west from the Amazon City of Manaus at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões (Amazon), following these rivers until the latter forks with the Japurá at the City of Tefé. The southern limit of the region then follows the Japurá west to the Colombian border, turning northward and skirting below the lowest foothills of the Guayana Shield.
This tropical rainforest in the northern Amazon Basin is dissected by rivers. Biodiversity is high and includes a number of primates such as black spider monkeys (Ateles paniscus), red-handed tamarins (Saguinus midas), and common squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus).
The Japurá-Solimões moist forest is mostly intact, especially in the interior. Along the rivers that delimit the region, both intensive activities, such as mining and agriculture, and extensive activities, such as logging, agriculture, hunting, and fishing, have resulted in deforested or degraded habitat and resultant population reductions in plants and animals. No roads exist in this region except very near to Manaus, but there is heavy boat traffic. The southern half of the Puinawai National Reserve below the Guainía River in Colombia protects a diversity of habitats. Also, this region hosts a very large corridor of protected areas extending from the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in the Purus Várzea ecoregion (not included here) through the Amanã Sustainable Development Reserve (half igapó forest and half adjacent terra firme), and Jaú National Park, Brazil’s largest national park. Because people live in the reserves, the conservation goal is to manage the natural resources sustainably while protecting the rich flora and fauna. Logging, mining, cattle ranching, uncontrolled fires, and urban development all pose threats to the environment in this region.
Near Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil Photograph by © WWF-Canon/Edward Parker This ecoregion in Brazil comprises portions of the low, seasonally inundated river basins of the central and lower Amazon, much of the length of the Madeira River Basin, and the mouth of the Purus River where it joins the Solimões (Amazon), as well as several smaller tributaries to these. An isolated patch occurs on the border of Brazil and Bolivia along the Mamoré River. The western limit of this ecoregion lies at an extensive area of várzea at the confluence of the Purus and Amazon Rivers about 300 kilometers (km) southwest of Manaus. The eastern limit is at the mouth of the Tapajós River that feeds into the Amazon.
The large urban centers of Manaus, Itacoatiara, Coari, and Óbidos lie in or near the várzea in this ecoregion. These flooded forests are called várzea because they are seasonally inundated by overflow from whitewater rivers .
Biodiversity is extremely high in this flooded forest along the lower Amazon. The region hosts an amazing number of avifauna; there are 681 reported bird species including red-shouldered macaws (Ara nobilis), sun parakeets (Aratinga solstitialis), and green-rumped parrotlets (Forpus passerinus). Over two hundred species of mammals are found here including jaguars (Panthera onca), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), and a number of primate species. There are few protected areas in this ecoregion, which is threatened by cattle ranching and large scale agriculture.
The Juruá-Purus moist forest ecoregion lies in the western part of the Brazilian Amazon Basin between the Solimões (Amazon) and Purus Rivers. It covers the interfluves between the westermost Amazon River, crossing the basins of the Jutaí, Jurua, Tefé, and Tapauá Rivers east to the Purus River. The southwestern limit is before the lowest elevations of the Carauari Arch, an ancient zone of uplift, excluding the upper portions of the Juruá and Purus Rivers.
This area lies entirely on the low Amazon basin, and the terrain is mostly uniform consisting of flat forested plains dissected by large rivers which are characterized by endless meanders, frequent oxbows, and thousands of tiny streams, all of which flood annually. This ecoregion does not include the abundant riparian flooded várzea, which is described under the Purus varzea ecoregion. This hot and humid aseasonal tropical region receives on average 2,500 millimeters (mm) of precipitation per year but with some areas to 3,500 mm. Elevations in this terrain range between 20 meters (m) and 60 m above sea-level.
Because no roads traverse this ecoregion, lack of access prevents over-hunting and extensive habitat disturbance. The Brazilian company Petrobras has been prospecting for oil and natural gas in this ecoregion for years, regularly deforesting patches throughout the area. Near Tefé, a large patch of forest was removed for an experimental agriculture project, but it has returned to secondary forest. Aside from these, the forests of the interior remain largely intact. Along the rivers, a few large urban centers (Carauari, Tefé, Coari, Jutaí) and many small settlements of farmers have an impact on the forest environment through clearing for urbanization, agriculture, and cattle ranching.
Caqueta River, Brazil Photograph by WWF/ Carlos Saenz This ecoregion in Brazil comprises portions of the low, seasonally inundated river basins of the central Amazon, including the Solimões River (name for the Amazon west of Manaus in Brazil), much of the Juruá, central Purus, and Japura/Caquetá Rivers, (Amazon), as well as the smaller tributaries to these. The eastern limit of this ecoregion lies at an extensive area of várzea at the confluence of the Japura and Solimões Rivers, 600 kilometers (km) west of Manaus. The urban centers of Tefé, Tabatinga, and Carauarí lie in or near the várzea in this ecoregion. These flooded forests are called várzea because they are seasonally inundated by overflow from whitewater rivers . Whitewater rivers are those which carry a great deal of suspended organic and inorganic sediment and have an ochre color.
Avifauna diversity is extraoridinary with over six hundred and thirty species. Terrestrial mammal diversity is smaller because the habitat is often flooded; two narrow endemic primates inhabit this region, the white uakari monkeys (Cacajao calvus calvus) and blackish squirrel monkeys (Saimiri vanzolinii) . Also, the largest snake in the world, the great anaconda (Eunectes murinus), is found here.
The várzea, because it lies along water "highways," is a region much affected by human activities, both historically and in the present. Today, the várzea is used for agriculture and forestry by smallholder farmers, and their systems tend to be biologically diverse agroecosystems. Hence, much of the forest is managed or unmanaged secondary forest. Small-scale ranching and extractive logging occur as well. Nevertheless, there is a certain amount of degraded deforested habitat. This region includes part of a large corridor of protected areas. They include the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve that lies entirely within the várzea, Amanã National Park which is half igapó forest (flooded by blackwater systems) and half adjacent terra firme, and Jaú National Park on terra firme and some igapó (not in this ecoregion), together covering 57,090 km2 and protecting one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems on Earth. These areas, particularly Mamirauá, have strong conservation programs.
This ecoregion located in the Upper Amazon Basin, is characterized by a relatively flat landscape with alluvial plains dissected by undulating hills or high terraces.
The biota of the southwest Amazon moist forest is very rich because of these dramatic edaphic and topographical variations at both the local and regional levels.
This ecoregion has the highest number of both mammals and birds recorded for the Amazonian biogeographic realm: 257 with 11 endemics for mammals and 782 and 17 endemics for birds. The inaccessibility of this region, along with few roads, has kept most of the habitat intact. Also, there are a number of protected areas, which preserve this extremely biologically rich ecoregion.
Several extractive reserves, the largest being Chico Mendes and Alto Juruá, are actively managed in Brazil.
This ecoregion comprises the low, seasonally inundated river basins of the upper Amazon, Ucayali, Marañon, and Madre de Dios, in Peru and Bolivia, several smaller tributaries to the Amazon in Peru, and the upper Juruá and Purus Rivers in Brazil. A large portion of the region centers around the extensive seasonally flooded plain in northeastern Peru at the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers that join to form the Amazon. The Rivers Pacaya and Simiria bisect this plain.
The Purus-Madeira moist forest region lies in the center of the Brazilian Amazon south of the Amazon River on the interfluvial plain between the Purus and Madiera rivers. The region extends to the southwest reaching the lowest foothills of the Carauari arch, an ancient zone of uplift. The terrain here is almost uniformly flat, being entirely on the low Amazon basin, and the vegetation are seasonally inundated tropical lowland rainforests. These lowland plains are dissected by large rivers characterized by endless meanders, frequent oxbows, and thousands of tiny streams, all of which flood annually. This hot and humid region receives on average 2,500 millimeters (mm) of precipitation per year, and elevations range from 20-60 meters above sea level.
Guapore River, Brazil Photograph by Augusto Fechin Teram The Madeira-Tapajós moist forest ecoregion lies in central Amazonia in Brazil south of the Amazon River. It spans the lowland Amazon Basin reaching south to the border with Bolivia. It encompasses portions of three Brazilian states (Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso) and part of the Bolivian Department of Beni. The region includes the large interfluve between the Madeira and Tapajós Rivers, both major tributaries to the mighty Amazon, and extends southward into the headwaters of the Tapajós to the Rio Guaporé Basin. The region encompasses a variety of vegetation types including dense lowland rain forest, dense submontane rain forest, open-canopy submontane rain forest, and woodland savanna.
This region hosts one of the most degraded environments of central Amazonia. It is located in central Rondônia where colonization and subsequent deforestation has left over one-third of the landscape of the state denuded and degraded. Most of this occurs along the Humaitá-Cuiabá road, but significant land degradation has occurred along the Transamazon Highway from the middle Tapajós to Humaitá. The southern edge of Amazonia, in general, suffers from encroaching development from the savanna regions to the south. Mining that is both intensive and illegal has left great scars on the banks of the Tapajós and Madeira Rivers. The protected area system is not well implemented here. The Amazonia National Park straddles the Tapajós River near Itaituba, covering 9,935 km2, but suffers from inadequate administrative capacity. The Pacaas Novos National Park protects 7,648 km2 of montane and submontane area in the Chapada dos Parecis.
Characterized by a high density of lianas (woody vines), which create a low, open understory, this region hosts an impressive level of biodiversity; over one hundred and sixty species of mammals are found here and more than five hundred and fifty species of avifauna.
The Transamazon Highway and road south to Cuiabá traverse the Tapajós-Xingu moist forest region. Along these roads, colonization, logging, ranching, and large-scale development projects result in large-scale deforestation and land degradation. Urban centers here include Altimira on the Iriri River, Santarém at the mouth of the Tapajós, and Aveiro on the Lower Tapajós. Very few protected areas are established here. The Amazonia National Park straddles the Tapajós River near Itaituba covering 9,935 km2 but suffers from inadequate administrative capacity. Tapajós National Forests offers little protection to the forests near Aveiro.
Itacaiunas River, Brazil Photograph by WWF/ M. Goulding The Xingu-Tocantins-Araguaia moist forest ecoregion lies in eastern Amazonian Brazil south of the Amazon River. It spans the interfluve between the Xingu and Lower Tocantins Rivers. It encompasses the middle and lower Araguaia River Basin, which branches to the southwest from the Tocantins. The Xingu and Tocantins Rivers are major tributaries to the mighty Amazon. The region extends southward into the uplands of the Brazilian Shield.
The landscape is relatively flat with flooded plains and many small rivers transecting the region. Biodiversity is high within this region, although not as high as other areas of Amazonia. Bat diversity is particularly high, with over ninety species and dominates the mammal fauna of this ecoregion. Avifauna is also particularly high with 527 species including many parrots, parakeets and macaws. One of the most deforested regions of Amazonia, this area has been ravaged by fire, logging for lumber, and the cultivation of pasture for cattle grazing. One biological reserve inadequately protects this important ecoregion.
This is one of the most deforested and degraded regions in Amazonia, second only to the Tocantins-Araguaia-Maranhão moist forest region to the east. Extensive deforestation occurs on the frontier with the drier, more populated zone to the south. Urban development radiates from the Amazonian cities of São Felix do Xingu on the Xingu; Porto de Moz, Oeiras do Pará, and Gurupá on the Amazon; and Marabá on the Tocantins. The Transamazon Highway traverses the middle of the region east to west and another highway flanks the Tocantins River. Most of the forest along these roads has been felled, burned, and replaced by cattle ranches, municipal infrastructure, or agricultural fields. Most of the valuable timber has been removed from the remaining forest. Many insects, birds, mammals, plants, and fish are locally extinct. The protected area system is weak here with only the Tapirapé Biological Reserve that covers 1,030 km2.
Paragominas, Brazil Photograph by © WWF-Canon/Juan Pratginestos The Tocantins-Araguaia-Maranhão moist forest is an area of dense rain forest in the eastern extreme of the Amazon Basin flanked by the mouth of the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean. In the state of Pará, the region extends west to the Tocantins River and south to the Mearim River in Maranhão State. A number of rivers run through the region including the Gurupi, Capim, and Guamá which feed into the mouth of the Amazon and are influenced by the daily tides that push Amazon water upstream. The Pindaré and Mearim drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the region lies on a flat alluvial plain which has been heavily influenced by the dynamics of the Amazon River over geologic history.
This region hosts a rich and varied biota with some species restricted to this area at the eastern extreme of the Amazon province. The area may well be a center of diversification for many tree taxa. In this dense evergreen rain forest there is noted heterogeneity in the biota due to the presence of many rivers and to the transitional nature of the region. It hosts elements of the moist evergreen forests of the Amazon Basin in the east and north as well as the drier vegetation of Brazil’s central plateau to the south. A refugium is believed to have existed in the west of this region . One of the most developed areas of Amazonia, cities and interconnecting highways threaten most of the habitat.
This is one of the most developed areas of Amazonia with several highways connecting the important cities of Belém, Paragominas, and Bragança. These big roads attract large-scale industry and development projects. At least one-third of the forests are cleared and much of this land is degraded. The region has become a mosaic of forest remnants, cattle pastures, agricultural fields, secondary forests, degraded (logged) forests, and sprawling urban areas. A great many species are rare or threatened by deforestation. The Tucuruí Dam on the Rio Tocantins below the city of Marabá has flooded 2,430 km2 of low-lying forest, drowning the flora and fauna and displacing human residents. Several small protected areas are established here, and the 2,000 km2 Caxiuanã National Forest protects some forest habitat. There is a small amount of frontier forest remaining here and that is very threatened by continued human-induced deforestation and land degradation.
Amazon-Orinoco-Southern Caribbean magroves
- Amapa mangroves
- Ilha Grande mangroves
- Bahia mangroves
- Maranhao mangroves
- Pará mangroves
- Rio Piranhas mangroves
20 km NE of Baracal, Brazil Photograph by Anthony Anderson The Maranhão Babaçu Forest is located in eastern Brazil at the very eastern and southern flank of the Amazon Basin.
This region comprises a transition zone between the moist evergreen forests of the Amazon Basin and the drier woodlands and scrub savannas of Brazil’s central plateau. Floristic elements of both regions intermingle, and the region is characterized by a vegetation mosaic .
The dominant type is cerrado vegetation of woodland, scrub, and patches of dry savanna. The western portion hosts tall species-rich moist evergreen and deciduous forest.
A small area of seasonally wet savanna dominated by sedges and grasses exists on the lower reaches of the major rivers.
Northeastern Brazil restingas
Restingas are coastal dune environments which host with a variety of moist tropical and subtropical habitat types with elements of mangrove, wetland, caatinga, and moist forest, and occur in patches along much of the coast of central and southern Atlantic Brazil. The Northeastern Brazil restingas are the most northern occurrence of this ecoregion type, and are the most extensive and continuous of the Brazilian restingas. Much of the western portion of the ecoregion is protected by the Lencóis Maranhenses National Park, which contains some extraordinary dune-lake formations. This regions hosts a number of endemic and restricted range species and provides important habitat to several endangered species.
Caatinga moist forest enclaves (regionally called "brejos") represent well-defined patches of Atlantic forest surrounded by the Caatinga dry forest and the Cerrado savanna-like vegetation in northeast Brazil. This region’s vegetation consists primarily of semi-deciduous forest. Isolated from each other, these regions show excellent examples of speciation; there are many examples of closely related species separated by only kilometers (km).
Because of their more comfortable climate, Caatinga moist forest enclaves receive much stronger human pressure than their semi-arid surroundings. Consequently, these forests have been reduced in area by 96 percent. Forest conversion still persists at alarming rates. Remaining natural vegetation is represented by 1,915.7 km2 of semi-deciduous forest, with the last largest blocks of habitat (10 to 20 km2) restricted to the areas with difficult access for people.
Brazilian Atlantic Coast restingas consist of a number of well-defined enclaves of restinga forests distributed from northeastern to southeastern Brazil.
This small ecoregion is characterized by sandy dunes with shrubs and low forests further inland. This ecoregion's isolation and unique characteristics help support a relatively high diversity of plants and moderate level of endemism, including the endemic restinga antwren. Less than ten percent of the original vegetation remains and with little protection, the remaining areas are threatened by urban expansion.
Southern Atlantic mangroves
Serra Grande, Perambuco interior forest, Perambuco, Brazil Photograph by Tom Allnutt Pernambuco coastal forests is a tropical moist forest covering an 80 kilometer (km) strip along the northeast coast of Brazil. The climate is tropical and the four-strata vegetation provides for a high level of biodiversity.
This area is considered one of the more distinctive centers of endemism in South America. The ecoregion is considered an Endemic Bird Area, and harbors a number of threatened avifauna species.
Most of the Pernambuco coastal forests have been cleared in the last centuries. First, the extraction of Brazil wood ("Pau Brazil") was the main goal. This cycle was followed by a long period in which the sugarcane industry was mainly responsible for most of the clearing. Today, even though forest remnants are legally protected, forest conversion into agricultural fields, logging and hunting still persist. Remaining natural vegetation is represented by 233.3 km2 of moist forests, with the last largest blocks of habitat (10 to 20 km2) in private ownership. Thousands of 0.01 to 0.1 km2 remnants surrounded by sugarcane fields compose the dominant landscape in this ecoregion. Protected areas cover 87 km2 of lowland moist forest, but these reserves are few (41), too small (97 percent are smaller than 10 km2) and isolated to maintain most of the biodiversity and key ecological processes.
Pernambuco interior forests are located in a narrow strip (approximately 50 km wide) between the ecoregions of Pernambuco coastal forests and Caatinga, in northeastern Brazil. In the north, its border is the Curimataú River; in the south, it is limited by the large São Francisco River.
Characterized predominantly by low-elevation plateaus, this narrow region in separates the Pernambuco coastal forests and Caatinga ecoregions. This ecoregion serves as a transition from the coastal region to dry forests. Biodiversity is rich, because the flora and fauna of both regions characterizes this ecoregion.
Deforestation for fuel, timber, agriculture, and cattle ranching has removed 95 percent of the original vegetation. Today, most of the forest is represented by small (1-10 ha), isolated, floristically impoverished fragments, and it is difficult to discern without careful botanic studies which are primary and which are secondary forests. Forest remnants comprise approximately 900 km2 of semi-deciduous forests and 420 km2 of ecotonal vegetation (Atlantic forest transition to Caatinga dry forest). There are only three protected areas, and they cover about 90 km2 of semi-deciduous forest. The most important reserve is Pedra Talhada Biological Reserve, in Quebrangulo, Alagoas. It has been indicated as one of the more important areas for protection of threatened birds in South America.
Northeast Brazil Photograph by Bret Whitney Caatinga is the largest dry forest region in South America and certainly one of the richest dry forests in the world. It encompasses the drier part of northeastern Brazil (Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Sergipe, Alagoas, Bahia, and northern Minas Gerais). Caatinga has very complex borders with Cerrado, Atlantic forest and Amazon, which have allowed a considerable biotic interchange among these regions during the evolutionary time. In general, Caatinga is located on crystalline or sedimentary depressions, whose continuity is broken by isolated plateaus distributed in mosaic fashion.
This large scrubland in northeastern Brazil provides habitat for an array of flora and fauna species; over 1,200 species of vascular plants occur here, of which thirty percent is endemic. Particularly rich in avifauna, over three hundred and fifty species are found here including two of the ten most threatened birds in the world, the indigo macaw and little blue macaw.
At least 50 percent of the Caatinga has been already been either completely converted from its native vegetation or modified in a major way. The severe overuse of caatinga for grazing and browsing for so many centuries has resulted in large-scale environmental modification of the region. In addition, unsustainable timber extraction for fuel, extensive and uncontrolled fires and, more recently, cotton cultivation have all played critical roles in the nearly complete destruction of important regional ecosystems.
As a result, a large area of the ecoregion is ranked today as highly threatened by desertification. In contrast with the huge proportion of the area under strong human pressure, less than 1 percent of the ecoregion is protected in parks or reserves. Several of these protected areas need to be implemented according to the best management guidelines. One of the best managed Brazilian National Parks is in the Caatinga: Parque Nacional da Serra da Capivara. This park combines two extraordinary features: an important set of Caatinga’s biota and one of the most important archeological sites in South America.
Itacarambi, Brazil Photograph by WWF/ David Oreu/ Cardosa de Silva This forest-dominated ecoregion is surrounded by open vegetation of Caatinga (north and east) and Cerrado (west and south) and is partially isolated from the main core of the Atlantic forest complex of ecoregions. Located mostly along the pediplained depression on River São Francisco, Atlantic dry forests cover an extensive area on eutrophic soils derived from limestone rocks of the Bambuí group.
Dry forests are one of the most threatened and least-known of South America's ecosystems. And the Atlantic dry forest is certainly one of the richest and most vulnerable among them. The biodiversity of this region is relatively unknown, however, it is though that endemism is high do to the many cave habitat, and also that there are unique migrations of certain bird species, including many that are globally threatened.
Approximately 70 percent of the native forest has largely been destroyed. Because these forests grow on relatively rich soils, they are prime candidates for clearing both irrigated and dry-field agriculture. Furthermore, the high biomass of these forests makes them important sources of fuel for Brazil's steel and pig iron industries, which run entirely on charcoal. The most diverse dry forests on flat terrain and rich soil have been completely removed.
The Campos Rupestres montane savannas are part of the Espinhaço Range (Cadeia do Espinhaço), an ancient plateau formed by Precambrian crystalline rocks that extend from the North Bahia (near the right bank of the São Francisco River) southward to Serra do Ouro Branco, near the historical city of Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais.
Campos rupestre literally means rock fields but in this context represents a type of vegetation which accompanies this unique habitat type. These shrubby savanna habitats occur on a elevation gradient between 700 and 2000 meters (m). This ecoregion is noted for a high degree of endemism at both genus and species levels. In addition it is listed as an endemic bird area and a center of plant diversity, exemplifying its diverse flora and fauna.
A large portion of this Campos Rupestres ecoregion remains in its natural state. However, threats are increasing and only 5% of the ecoregion is currently in the federal system of protected areas. Protected areas are located in the Espinhaço Range, mostly Serra do Cipó, and Serra do Sincorá.
Linhares, Brazil Photograph by WWF/ Margaret Mariet Bahia coastal forest covers a 150-kilometer-wide strip along the Atlantic coast of Bahia and Espirito Santo states in Brazil.
This ecoregion has been given high priority for biodiversity conservation because it harbors an extraordinary number of endemic plants, birds, primates, and butterflies. Many of these species are endangered including the Maned Three-toed sloth (Bradypus torquatus) and Golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas).
The forests of coastal Bahia are considered among the more endangered habitats on Earth because they have been reduced by 95 percent. In southern Bahia, only 0.4 percent of the original forest remains.
At present, forest conversion into pasture is occurring at alarming rates stimulated by the economic crash of cocoa plantations.
Remaining natural vegetation is represented by approximately 9,532 km2 of moist, semi-deciduous and associated restinga forests. The largest blocks of habitat are protected by Sooretama Biological Reserve (240 km2), and by Linhares Forest Reserve (220 km2).
Natural protected areas cover 920.03 km2 (0.9 percent of the ecoregion) of both lowland moist and semi-deciduous forests.
Heterogeneity is the best word to describe the Bahia interior forests. This ecoregion covers a large area, including the Brazilian states of Sergipe, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, and Rio de Janeiro. It is bordered by the ecoregions of Bahia coastal forest (east), Cerrado (west), Caatinga (north) and Paraná-Parnaíba (south). Although the dominant vegetation in this ecoregion is a kind of seasonal forest, at least five other types of vegetation have been reported for it, ranging from rocky savannas ("campos rupestres") to evergreen forests.
Bahia interior forest is one of the most modified ecoregions in Atlantic forest region. There are few large remnants of forests (of more than 10 kilometer2 (km2), and even these are currently under strong pressure from anthropogenic activities. Less than 1 percent of this ecoregion is officially protected as reserves or parks. The most representative park of this ecoregion is the State Park of Rio Doce, which is composed of 359 km2 located on the middle valley of the Rio Doce, with areas in the districts of Marlieria, Dionísio, and Timóteo.
Pirenopolis, Brazil Photograph by © WWF-Canon/Juan Pratginestos Cerrado is the largest savanna region in South America and biologically the richest savanna in all the world. It encompasses Central Brazil (most of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Tocantins; western Minas Gerais and Bahia; southern Maranhão and Piauí; all Goiás and Distrito Federal; and small portions of São Paulo and Paraná), northeastern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia. Because of its central position in South America, Cerrado has borders with the largest South American biomes: the Amazon basin (on north), Chaco and Pantanal (on west), Caatinga (on northeast), and Atlantic forest (on east and south). Several of the major South American rivers (e.g., São Francisco, Tocantins, Araguaia, Xingu, Paraguay) have their headwaters in Cerrado. Most of the Cerrado is located on large blocks of crystalline or sedimentary plateaus, whose continuity is broken by an extensive network of peripheral depressions.
Around 67 percent of the Cerrado ecoregion has been already either completely converted or modified in a major way. In contrast, only 1 percent of the total area of the Cerrado Region is protected in parks or reserves. Most of the large-scale human modification in the Cerrado took place in the last 50 years. With a construction of a new capital of Brazil (Brasília), several highways were built, opening the region to a large process of development. During the 1970's and 1980's, several investment programs financed by multilateral funding agencies together with generous government subsides transformed the Cerrado in a new agricultural frontier. Managed pastures and large-scale plantations of soybeans, corn, and irrigated rice were established. As a result, thousands and thousands of square kilometers of cerrado were removed without any studies on environmental impacts.
The Mato Grosso dry forests are located in the Mato Grosso and Para provinces of Central Brazil. This region is a transitional zone between the moist forests to the south and "cerrado" grassland savannas to the west; thus it hosts a great variety of habitat types such as lowland forest, savanna, gallery forests, and dense thicket areas. The ecoregion encompasses part of the Alto-Xingu, which constitutes the headwaters of the Xingu River.
This is an ecoregion of an extraordinary diversity of plants, animals and indigenous peoples. The region constitutes a transitional area between the Amazonian moist forest and the cerrado vegetation. A sector of great biological interest in this ecoregion is the Serra do Cachimbo, a 700 meter (m) escarpment, considered an endemic area for various species. Isolated until the construction of highways in the area in the 1970s, the region was the site of scientific expeditions before and during the 1970s. Threats to the region include gold mining, which has brought thousands of people to the area, logging, agriculture and cattle ranching.
The Beni savannas are located in the lowlands of the southwestern Amazon Basin, extending northeastward from the foot of the Andean ranges. Almost all of the ecoregion lies within Bolivia, with small areas along the Iténez (Guaporé) River in the Brazilian State of Rondonia and in the Pampas del Heath of the Madre de Dios Department of Peru.
The Beni savannas, also known as the Moxos plains, are the third largest complexes of savannas in South America. This ecoregion has been identified as a plant diversity and endemic center. The abundance of fauna and flora, including threatened species, makes this region highly valuable.
Roughly in the center of the South American continent, most of the Chiquitano forest lies within the eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with smaller patches extending into western Mato Grosso, Brazil. Situated at the southern limit of Amazonian forests, this forest marks a transition to drier thorny scrub forests further south in the Chaco. This forest takes its name from the indigenous groups, Chiquitanos, which inhabited them at the time of European colonization. It provided the scenario for most of the Jesuit missionary work during the 17th and 18th century. This is the largest patch of healthy dry forest ecosystem alive today, and one of the most biologically diverse dry forests in the world.
The Pantanal is the largest wetland in South America, and the largest wetland in the world that has not been substantially modified by humans. Located roughly in the center of South America, near the borders of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the Pantanal stretches from 16° to 20° S latitude. The majority of the ecoregion occurs in Brazil as a floodplain around the Rio Paraguay and tributaries.
While endemism in the area is low, the sheer abundance of large birds, reptiles, and mammals mark its importance as a huge reservoir of biodiversity. Much of the ecoregion remains intact; however, pesticide runoff constitutes a major threat to the watershed of the Rio Paraguay. Also, a project by several governments plans to provide navigable waterway for shipping and dams for hydroelectricity generation, which would drastically alter this pristine habitat.
The Chaco Humedo ecoregion is located in northeastern Argentina, the center of Paraguay, and small areas in southwestern Brazil. This region is a mosaic of ecosystems, combining woods with savanna. In this mosaic, various species of trees, shrubs, and coarse grass develop and are associated with numerous species of fauna adapted to this diverse environment. Poaching and exploitation of plants are the main threats to the natural habitat in this ecoregion, which has been considerably altered due to cattle raising.
Morpo de Diablo Hill, Brazil Photograph by C.U. Padua Also known as Parana/Parnaíba interior forests, this area, extending through southern Brazil, and western Argentina and Paraguay, represents the largest portions of the Brazilian Atlantic semi-deciduous forest region.
This region serves as a corridors for species migration between moist and semi-deciduous forests and also between Atlantic forests and Cerrado habitats. Due to this, species richness is high, although endemism is relatively low.
Parana/Paranaíba forests have been reduced in area by 95 percent in Brazil. Remaining vegetation is represented by approximately 17,211 km2 of semi-deciduous forests. The largest blocks of forest (300 to 1,000 km2 are protected public areas, but thousands of 0.01 to 1 km2 remnants, surrounded by pastures and agriculture, represent the dominant biological scenery.
Such remnants are expected to lose a significant part of their biodiversity due to the increase of lianas and ruderal species. Protected areas occupy only 1,866.3 km2 of this semi-deciduous forest ecoregion. Timber extraction, agriculture and hunting represent continuous threats to the biodiversity of Paraná/Paraiba forests. Such activities will increase the pressure on timber trees, game species, and large carnivores.
San Leopold, Brazil Photograph by WWF/ D.C. Twichell The Uruguayan savanna ecoregion extends from the extreme southern part of the Rio Grande do Sul, a Brazilian state, to include the entire country of Uruguay, and a small section of the Argentinean province of Entre Ríos. These savannas encompass a mosaic of gallery forests, palm savannas and out cropping of submontane forests. The gallery forests are found along the Uruguay, Negro, Yaguarí, Queguay, and Tacuarembo Rivers in the easternmost part of the ecoregion, while submontane forests and palm savannas are scattered throughout the ecoregion.
Habitat destruction and modification, and introduction of alien species to the ecoregion have caused the extinction of the collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), jaguar (Panthera onca), and jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi). Among some of the introduced species are the axis deer (Axis axis), fallow deer (Dama dama), European hare (Lepus europeous) and wild boar (Sus scrofa).
Murici, Brazil. Photograph by WWF/ Ibsen Camara This ecoregion spans the mountainous areas of southern Atlantic Brazil and extends into northeastern Argentina. These forests are a relict of a once widespread ecosystem of mixed coniferous and broad-leafed trees, spread out across a mountainous landscape.
Forests spread from middle-level plateaus of around 500 meters (m) to the high slopes of the Serra da Mantiqueira, which rise to 1600 m above sea-level. The climate is subtropical with frequent frosts and without a dry season. Annual precipitation is high, and ranges from 1300-3000 millimeters (mm).
These mixed forests are convergent with savanna regions to the south, cerrado scrub to the north, and moist forests to the east and west.
These moist forests have been reduced in area by 87 percent. Remaining vegetation is represented by 35,045.67 km2 of mixed forests. Few large blocks of habitat are preserved by official protection. In addition, thousands of private 1- to 100-hectare remnants surrounded by pastures and agriculture represent a significant part of remaining vegetation. Protected areas cover only 0.62 percent of the ecoregion. More reserves are needed to save these biologically rich forest from illegal logging and urban expansion.
The Serra do Mar mountain range defines this ecoregion with montane forests of Bromeliaceae, Myrtaceae, Melastomataceae, and Lauraceae species. This region contains outstanding biodiversity in endemism and species richness of flora, mammal, bird, and herpetofauna.
The Serra do Mar forests have been reduced in area by 53 percent. Habitat loss occurs preferentially in lowland forests, which are replaced quickly by urban areas. Remaining natural vegetation is represented by 45,928 km2 of moist forest, but there are few large blocks of lowland forests. Protected areas encompass 1,403 km2 of moist forests, including large blocks of montane forest.
Tourism and urban development represent huge threats to natural habitats because human population and cities continue to increase. Serra do Mar forests are spread over the more industrialized region of Brazil in which human population sometimes reaches 1,000 individuals per km2. In addition, traditional human activities like palm-heart extraction represent a severe threat to plants and frugivorous vertebrates. In some localities, more than 10,000 kilograms(kg) of palm-heart is extracted per year.
Ecoregions are areas that: share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
 share similar environmental conditions; and,
 interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.
Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.