Deforestation and Conservation

The forests of eastern coastal Brazil are considered among the most endangered habitats on earth (Mori, 1989) and have been given highest priority for biodiversity conservation (Bibby et al., 1992; Biodiversity Support Program et al., 1995). The four maps below (from Mendonça et al, 1994) depict the loss of forest cover in southern Bahia in 1945, 1960, 1974, and 1990.

Deforestation in Bahia, 1945-1990
Deforestation in southern Bahia over time: 1945, 1960, 1974, 1990

Only recently, however, has the Atlantic coastal forest been separated into distinct areas of biological diversity for conservation purposes (see Bibby et al., 1992). The realization that the coastal forest comprises at least three separate centers of endemism and that these deserve to be considered separately for conservation becomes particularly important in light of the differing amounts of deforestation found in each of the three areas.

Comparison of deforestation in different regions of the Coastal Forest
The table below (data from Thomas et al. 1998) lists deforestation by state with Pernambuco, Paraíba and Alagoas comprising the PE-AL area and São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro comprising the SP-RJ area. The BA-ES area includes the Bahian coastal forests and the forests in the northern third of Espírito Santo. "Continuous" forest means unbroken areas of forest and, in most cases, indicate primary forest.  In 1990, while 19.6 % of the forest in the SP-RJ area of endemism remained, the BA-ES and PE-AL regions were already devastated: in southern Bahia only 0.4 % of the original forest remained intact and in Pernambuco, Alagoas and Paraíba together only 0.17 % remained.

Brazilian State Original Forest, km²
(see Campos, 1912)
% forested by 1990 % forested by 1990 % forested by 1990
Disturbed Total
Pernambuco 32,512  0.05  0.62 0.67
Paraíba  19,087  0.12  0.59  0.71
Alagoas 8,525  0.00  2.34 2.34
Bahia  215,436 0.40 3.10 3.50
Espírito Santo 29,942  2.62 13.56 16.18
Rio de Janeiro 35,981  12.21  5.25 17.47 
São Paulo  161,750  21.30 5.41  26.71
Total, all states  1,209,367  7.91  6.20  14.11