Tropical rainforest reserves as also found in the State of Bahia along the Atlantic coastline of Brazil are part of a greater forest ecosystem called Mata Atlântica. It original stretched out over 1.2 million square kilometers (about 25% of the Amazon). However, decades of deforestation for industrial timber use, cacao, cattle farming, sugar cane, coffee, and urban sprawl caused a decline of the Atlantic forest with more than 90 percent. Less than 100,000 square kilometers of Atlantic forest is left over nowadays and survives in relatively small portions as well as through several protected tropical rainforest reserves such as in the Itacaré area in the south of the state of Bahia where a damp forest is a dominating factor.
No other tropical forest system did endure such a great amount of abuse as the Mata Atlântica of South America. The system envelops an assortment of tropical forest environments ranging from dry woodlands to rainforest and waterfront mangroves. Mata Atlântica originally was dominant along the Brazilian Atlantic coastline as well as parts of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina.
Albeit almost adjoining the Amazon rainforest, the Mata Atlântica has developed itself separate from its bigger and better-known neighbor. It is, actually, elder than the Amazon. Due to the isolated position of the Atlantic ecosystem, conditions were such that the creation of unique biological communities was possible, what resulted in a substantial number of animal varieties that don’t exist anywhere else on the planet. Despite the minimal amount of the surviving forests, remains the forest still surprisingly rich in biodiversity and endemic species. However, a high number of them are threatened with annihilation.
In regard to flora did analysts list more than 23,000 plants, 40 percent of which are endemic to the Atlantic rainforest. The zone is particularly rich in exceptional categories of animals living in trees. An evaluation of one single hectare in Bahia revealed 450 species. Researchers have recorded over 260 warm-blooded species, about 1,000 feathered creatures, over 400 land and water creatures, over 300 reptiles, and 350 freshwater species. Some with higher endemism level than others. For instance, 282 species (61%) of the land and water creatures are only found in the Mata Atlântica. New species keep on being found. Between 1990 and 2006 over a thousand new blossoming plants were found. This ecosystem yielded even new primate species such as the dark lion tamarin. They also rediscovered the blonde capuchin, generally overlooked since the Nineteenth Century.
Tropical rainforest reserves are still under threat.
Tropical timber harvests, rural sprawl, deforestation for agriculture, hunting, poaching and isolation due to small patches of many of the forest brought this ecosystem into a dangerous position. Today, 60% of the endangered species are living in the remains of the Mata Atlântica.
Several organizations and state governments have begun to recognize the importance of the ecosystem and acknowledge heavy losses already incurred. Still, until today, bits of Mata Atlântica is disappearing every annum.
Let us hope that the turning point will soon be reached and will lead to an expansion of tropical rainforest reserves.