Campos Rupestres montane savanna

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Satellite view of the Campos Rupestres savanna near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Photograph by USGS

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.

Location and General Description


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. The dominant vegetation is a type of savanna known as campos rupestres or rock fields and lies in the Espinhaço Range between 700 and 2,000 m in elevation. Plants grow in a wide variety of inhospitable substrates including stone, rock (epilithic), recently decomposed stony soils, or sandy soils. Because the Espinhaço Range is not continuous, but separated by deep and extensive river valleys in numerous patches, campos rupestres have a patchy distribution that makes speciation through species diversification within the ecoregion possible. Each mountain portion of the Espinhaço Range is locally known as a "serra". The most famous and best studied serras are Serra do Cipó in Minas Gerais and Serra do Sincorá in Bahia. The climate is mesothermic with mild summers accompanied by a rainy season. There is also a 3 to 4 month dry season during the winter. The northern parts of the ecoregion are slightly hotter and dryer then the southern reaches. The average annual temperature varies from 17° to 20° C.

Campos rupestres are a mosaic of communities, under the control of local topography, microclimate, and the nature of the substrate. Outside of this ecoregion and campos areas, are the gallery forests of the Espinhaco Range. The campos rupestres are marked mainly by cerrado patches with sparse treelets and shrubs with thick bark including Qualea cordata, Q. parviflora, Byrsonima verbascifolia, Neea theifera, Caryocar brasiliense, Campomanesia adamantium, and C. pubescens. Surrounding these woody plants are the grasses Aristida, Paspalum stellatum and Axonopus brasiliensis, along with ferns and their allies, such as Anemia, Doryopteris, and Huperzia. The plants of these rocky fields although high in sandy substrates have adapted to this environment where water is not often readily available. For example, some plants in this ecoregion have anatomical or physiological modifications such as waxy surfaces on their leaves to reflect heat, hairs to protect against radiation, or tightly furled rosettes of leaves which secrete chemicals making them more resistant to fire.

Biodiversity Features

The extraordinary number of endemic species characterizes Campos Rupestres. The Espinhaço Range has been recognized as a center of endemism for plants. Predominant endemic plant families are Velloziaceae, Bromeliaceae, Xyridaceae, Eriocaulaceae, Cyperaceae, Gentinianaceae, and Lentibulariaceae, which are represented by numerous species such as Vellozia harley and Leiothrix hirsuta. Campos rupestres also harbors several threatened species from different groups of organisms. For instance, among the 538 threatened species of plants in the state of Minas Gerais, 358 (66.5 percent) are from campos rupestres.

This ecoregion is also recognized for its wildlife as a center of endemism for lizards, amphibians, and birds. There are several endemic species that occur all along the ecoregion, but there are several others that are restricted to one or a few islands of campos rupestres, indicating considerable species turnover within separate parts of the ecoregion. For example, two hummingbirds from the family Auguestes are found in this ecoregion however the hooded visorbearer (A. lumachellus) is confined to the northern section while hyacinth visorbearer (A. scutatus) is confined to the south. Other avifauna restricted to this ecoregion include Serra do Mar tyrant-manakin (Neopelma chrysolophum), Cipó canastero (EN) (Asthenes luizae), and Brasília tapaculo (VU) (Scytalopus novacapitalis). Reptiles of the family Tropidurus are numerous including species of T. nanuzae, T. erythrocepalus, T. montanus, and T. mucujensis. Amphibians species have also adapted to this seasonally dry ecoregion such as Hyla cipoensis, Physalaemus deimaticus, and Proceratophilus cururu.

Current Status

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.

Types and Severity of Threats

Major threats in this ecoregion are mining, extraction of ornamental native plants, cattle ranching, tourism, fires, agribusiness, and urban expansion. Also surrounding forested habitats are being cleared by timber extraction combining with the burning of savannas to increase grazing areas, large areas of habitat are being altered.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation

These elevational patches of savanna and shrublands occur in southeastern Brazil in a archipelago like distribution from the caatinga southwards to the moist Mata Altantica forests. The isolation and unique savanna species associations distinguish this ecoregion, and a number of endemic species are present. The linework for these montane patches was derived from IBGE. We identified their classification of "refugios montanos" as campos rupestres. However, only "refugios montanos" were classified as "campos rupestres" in order to separate them from other types of "campos" in southeastern Brazil's mountains. Our limits of the ecoregion follows Giuletti & Pirani. It has been generally included within the cerrado region rather than Atlantic Forest complex. There are other patches of campos rupestres in Goiás and Tocantins related floristically to ones of the Espinhaço Range.

Additional Information on this Ecoregion

Further Reading

  • Ab'Saber, A.N. (1983) O domínio dos cerrados: Introdução ao conhecimento. Revista do Serviço Publico. 111: 41-55.
  • Costa, C.M.R., G. Herrmann, C.S. Martins, L.V. Lins, and I.R. Lamas. 1998. Biodiversidade em Minas Gerais - Um Atlas para sua conservação. Fundação Biodivesitas Belo Horizonte.
  • Davis, S.D., V.H. Heywood, O. Herrera-MacBryde, J. Villa-Lobos, and A.C. Hamilton. 1997. Centres of plant diversity: A guide and stradegy for their conservation. Information Press, Oxford, U.K. ISBN: 283170197X
  • Eiten, G. 1990 Vegetação. Pages 9-65 in M. N. Pinto, editor, Cerrado: Caracterização, Ocupação e Perspectivas. Editora Universidade de Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil. ISBN: 8523003444
  • Fundação Instituto Brasilero de Geografia Estatástica-IBGE. 1993. Mapa de vegetação do Brasil. Map 1:5,000,000. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • Giulietti, A.M., and J. R. Pirani. 1988. Patterns of geographic distribution of some plant species from the Espinhaço Range, Minas Gerais and Bahia, Brazil. Pages 39-69 in P.E. Vanzolini and W.R. Heyer, editors. Proceedings of a workshop on neotropical distribution patterns. Academia Brasileira de Ciências, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Harley, R. M.. 1988. Evolution and distribution of Eriope (Labiatae), and its relatives, in Brazil. Pages 71-120 in P. E. Vanzolini, and W. R. Heyer, editors, Proceedings of a workshop on neotropical distribution patterns. Academia Brasileira de Ciências, Rio de Janeiro.
  • IBGE. 1988. Mapa de vegetação do Brasil (1:5.000.000). IBGE, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Moreira, A. A. N. 1965. Relêvo. Pp. 5-54, in IBGE, editor, Geografia do Brasil - Grande Região Leste. IBGE, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Rodrigues, M. T. 1988. Distribution of lizards of the genus Tropidurus in Brazil (Sauria, Iguanidae). Pages 305-315 in P. E. Vanzolini, and W. R. Heyer, editors. Proceedings of a workshop on neotropical distribution patterns. Academia Brasileira de Ciências, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Silva, J.M.C., and A. Dinnouti 1999. Análise de representatividade das unidades de conservação federais de uso indireto na Floresta Atlântica e Campos Sulinos. in Conservation International, editor, Workshop Avaliação e Ações Prioritárias para Conservação dos Biomas Floresta Atlântica e Campos Sulinos, São Paulo. http//
  • Stattersfield, J.A., M.J. Crosby, A.J. Long, and D.C. Wege. 1998. Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. The Burlington Press Ltd., Cambridge, U.K. ISBN: 1560985747
  • Wege, D.C., and A.C. Long. 1995. Key areas for threatened birds in the Neotropics. BirdLife International, Cambridge. ISBN: 0946888310

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Fund, W. (2014). Campos Rupestres montane savanna. Retrieved from


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