Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forest once extended 2400 km from Rio Grande do Norte south to the coastal area of Rio Grande do Sul (compare this to the US coastline), forming a narrow fringe of forest sandwiched between the ocean and the dry uplands of the planalto. Because of its geographic isolation from other forest types, this forest has one of the highest percentages of endemism in the world: over 50% of the tree species (Mori et al. 1981) and 92% of the amphibians (Lynch 1979) are found nowhere else in the world. Thus, the assemblage of plant and animal species found here is not merely a displaced portion of the Amazonian forest, but constitutes a unique floristic province that is seriously threatened (Mori et al. 1983, Mori 1989). Because of these reasons, the coastal forests have been designated one of the World’s biodiversity hotspots.
Despite sharing some of its flora and fauna with the Amazonian forest (Brown 1987b, Mori 1989), the Atlantic forests have been considered to be a distinct neotropical forest type (Lynch 1979, Cracraft 1985, Vanzolini 1988, Mori 1989). In recent surveys of the biota of South American tropical forests, the Atlantic forest region of Brazil is widely considered to comprise one or more distinct areas of endemism (Duellman 1979, Prance 1982, 1987, Buckley et al. 1985, Brown 1987a, 1987b, Whitmore & Prance 1987, Vanzolini and Heyer 1988). For many groups of organisms (including plants, some Lepidoptera, some Hymenoptera, and amphibians), southern Bahia and northern Espírito Santo are thought to comprise a distinct area of endemism (Richards 1978, Lynch 1979, Brown 1987a, Prance 1988).
NYBG’s Atlantic Coastal Forest Projects:
Coastal Forest Plant Diversity in Northeastern Brazil
Molecular-based Plant inventory of a Megadiverse Bahian Forest
Plant diversity in the Montane forest of Pernambuco
Rare Trees of the Atlantic Forest of Southern Bahia, Brazil