ecoDestinations Brazil: Breakdown of Brasil's Five Major Biomes

ecoDestinations Brazil: Breakdown of Brasil's Five Major Biomes

ecoDestinations Brazil

By Ariane Janer, co-founder, EcoBrasil

THE AMAZON -The Largest Rainforest in the World

The mythical Amazon can only be described in superlatives. It covers an area of 5 million square kilometers of which 80% is on Brazilian territory. It is the largest and most intact rainforest region in the world. Through it flows an extensive drainage system of more than a thousand rivers and in the skies over the rainforest, you have the flying rivers that flow in the opposite direction from the ocean to the Andes. It is estimated that water is recycled as vapour and rain 5 times on this journey. Such an enormous area is not one homogeneous ecosystem, but a mosaic of sub-ecosystems. World Wildlife Fund - Brazil has identified 23 distinct eco-regions, based on bio-geographic profiles. Though most people who visit the Amazon go to Manaus, there are a lot of interesting opportunities elsewhere.

PANTANAL: The largest wetlands in the world

In the centre of the South American continent lies the largest wetlands in the world: the Pantanal. Extending into three countries, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, its total area is an estimated 240,000 square kilometers (60% is in Brazil). The origins of these floodplains probably go back to the time when there was a great inland sea in the South American continent. The diversity of vegetation, the rich soil and the abundance of water attract and sustain an enormous variety and abundance of wildlife. Most of the wildlife is also encountered in other parts of Brazil, but nowhere are they as easily seen as in the Pantanal.

THE ATLANTIC FOREST The Forgotten Rainforest of Brazil

The Atlantic Forest is one of the most threatened rainforests in the world. It used to stretch all along the Brazilian coast occupying an area of about 1.1 million square kilometers. Now less than 10% remains. Most of the forest cover in the states North of Salvador is gone. The remaining forest is most ly concentrated in the states of Rio, São Paulo and Paraná he most remaining forest thanks, in part, to the inaccessibility of some of these areas. In Southern Bahia, shade-living cocoa has helped some impressive stands survive, as only the undergrowth is cleared for making the plantations. For the visitor the Atlantic Rainforest offers spectacular mountain scenery (some of the highest mountains of Brazil are found in its domain), exuberant forest full of hidden treasures like bridal veil waterfalls, a delicate orchid or the beautiful golden lion tamarin monkey. Birdwatchers will discover an enormous variety of birds, including endangered endemics. And for the adventurous, there are a myriad of activities like trekking, mountain-biking, rappel and canyoning, rafting and canoeing and horseback riding. And, some of the best beaches of Brazil are close by.

CERRADO The Magical Brazilian Heartland

The heartland of Brazil, the "cerrado", covers an area equal to Western Europe (2 million sq km) and is thought to be one of the South American continent’s more ancient ecosystems. For a long time it was seen as an "empty quarter", but not only is it an area of enormous ecological importance, it also has many areas of spectacular scenic beauty. Until the 20th century, most of the Brazilian heartland was sparsely inhabitated by Indians and a few pioneers. There are many great "cerrado" destinations in Brazil. There is, of course, the varied wildlife. But you will also be impressed by vast open rolling landscapes, ancient cliffs and high waterfalls and delight at the varied vegetation : the beautiful "veredas" (flooded grassy areas with elegant winepalms), gardens of many colored wildflowers and orchards of knotty small trees, bearing strange fruits.

CAATINGA Ancient Badlands of Northeastern Brazil

Caa-tinga (caa = woods, tinga = white) is the Tupi Indian name for the typical vegetation of the backlands of the North East of Brazil. In the prolonged dry season, most of the thorny bushes, scrubs and contorted trees of the caatinga lose their leaves and you see a thicket of dull grey-white trunks and twigs. But it only needs to rain and streams start to flow, pools fill up and suddenly the whole caatinga becomes a delicate green tapestry. Long a hide-out for bandits, rebels and visionaries, the caatinga also earns a reputation as a mystical badlands. Despite its forbidding aspect, the caatinga is a fascinating place to visit for its flora and fauna, striking landscapes and geological formations, important archeological sites and its importance in Brazilian history and culture. Many of the caatinga's interesting sites are easily visited in short trips from the Northeast coast and those who want to do more than just enjoy the beach, should certainly investigate the possibilities.

Photo © Bruno Maia


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