Brazil is considered one of the world's richest places in terms of natural variety, offering the travelers many different and wonderful sceneries and ecosystems to discover.
The most famous, of course, is the Amazon Rain Forest: an area of nearly 5 million sq km (3 million sq miles) that occupies about the whole northern part of South America up to the Andes and dominates more than 40% of Brazil’s territory. It’s a tropical rainforest with one of the world’s highest rates of biodiversity and also the most intact areas. It impresses the visitor with its endless landscapes of green forest and colorful waters, where is located the Mamirauá Institute Project, the largest Sustainable Development Reserve in the world, that has over 1,124,000 ha of preserved forest.
Another important ecosystem is the Atlantic Rain Forest. This forest used to occupy over 30% of the country, from Bahia to Paraná, but it has been diminishing since the discovery of Brazil. Nowadays, only 5% of the original forest area remains untouched, mostly in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Paraná, declared as one of the most endangered areas in the world. However, the remaining forest is still a biodiversity hotspot. An example of this exuberant forest can be seen in national parks like Tijuca National Park in Rio, Itatiaia National Park between the states of Rio and Minas Gerais and Iguaçu National Park in the border of the state of Paraná and Argentina.
Pantanal is the largest wetland in the world. These spectacular floodplains, lying South of the Amazon and Southwest of the Cerrado, show influences of both these ecosystems. Considered to have the highest concentration of wildlife in the Americas, it’s a must for nature lovers, who will marvel abundance and diversity of animal species and its beautiful sunsets. During 4 months of the year, the rain floods the soil, changing the live of humans and animals. It is considered the cradle of an uncountable number of species, mostly birds, fishes and reptiles. It is the home of the carnivorous fish Piranha, the Brazilian jaguar, the beautiful Toucan and hundreds of other species.
The Cerrado has a plant community structure similar to the African savanna, but is much richer in biodiversity. Running diagonally from southwest to northeast, this is the heartland of Brazil, between Amazon, the Pantanal and the Caatinga, being a transition among these three ones. It is an amazing environment with mixed characteristics depending on what part of the country you are. Sometimes it looks more similar to the Amazon, others to the Pantanal and so far the Cerrado is also important as a corridor for animal and plant species to other ecosystems. The rapid expansion of Brazilian agriculture has greatly reduced the Cerrado, which occupies 25% of Brazilian territory and makes it a conservation hotspot.
In the bulge of north-eastern Brazil, too far from the moist Amazon inland and the ocean currents on the west it lies the Caatinga. Characterized by scrubs, thorns, magnificent cactus formations and small twisted branches. Though this ancient land is also one of the poorest regions of the country, where years of drought can occur, its flora and fauna is surprisingly rich and it is home to some of Brazil’s most important pre-historic sites. The disappearance of the Atlantic Rainforest, amongst other factors, is increasing the desertification pressures on this unique ecosystem.
Also relevant, are the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems. In many locations of Brazilian coast, where rivers meet the sea, Mangrove Swamps are found. Unfortunately, many have been partly destroyed. Impressive formations can still be found in the Lagamar area (border of the states of São Paulo and Paraná), the bay of Camamu (Bahia), the Parnaíba Delta (Piauí) and around the mouth of the Amazon.
Restingais is coastal strip vegetation adapted to the extreme conditions of burning sun, strong winds, salty air and sandy soil. The vegetation includes cactus and thorny shrubs and also cashew nut.
Coral Reefs can be found in many places along the Brazilian coast as the northeastern beaches that have natural coral reef pools. The largest coral reef formation in the South Atlantic is Abrolhos National Marine Park (Bahia), which is also a nursery for humpback whales. The other Marine Park of Brazil is Fernando de Noronha (Pernambuco), a volcanic island that is a top diving spot and also great for surfing. The Reef of Manoel Luis, 185 km (115 miles) off the coast of Maranhão, is considered one of the wonders of the underwater world. However, it is very difficult to visit because of its remote location, high waves and strong currents and needs a special permit.
A general consensus is that Brazil has the highest number of both terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates of any country in the world. This high diversity of fauna can be explained by the sheer size of Brazil and also the great variation of ecosystems.
The numbers published about Brazil’s fauna diversity can vary from source to source, as taxonomists sometimes disagree about species classifications and information can be incomplete or out of date. Also new species continue to be discovered and, sadly, some species go extinct in the wild.
Brazil has the highest primate diversity of any country in the world with 77 species and fresh water fish (over 3000 species). It claims the second highest number of amphibian species, the third highest number of bird species and is ranked fifth in reptile species. Many of the species that are at risk live in threatened habitats such as the Atlantic Forest.
Brazil is a paradise for plant lovers and botanists. Its magnificent trees, beautiful flowers and enormous variations in edible fruits and nuts can enchant even those who are not that interested in plants. For those who have little time or want to know more about Brazilian flora, it is good to know that the larger cities of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, São Paulo, Brasília and Manaus all have botanical gardens. There are also possibilities to private reserves and gardens owned by specialists, like Orquidário Kautsky in Domingos Martins (ES), Sítio Burle Marx near Rio de Janeiro, Sítio Bacchus (orchids) near Nova Friburgo.
Brazil is a paradise for plant lovers and botanists. Its magnificent trees, beautiful flowers and enormous variations in edible fruits and nuts can enchant even those who are not that interested in plants.
For those who have little time or want to know more about Brazilian flora, it is good to know that the larger cities of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, São Paulo, Brasília and Manaus all have botanical gardens. There are also possibilities to private reserves and gardens owned by specialists, like Orquidário Kautsky in Domingos Martins (ES), Sítio Burle Marx near Rio de Janeiro, Sítio Bacchus (orchids) near Nova Friburgo.