Location and General Description
The Campos Rupestres montane savannas are part of the Espinhaço Range (Cadeia do Espinhaço), an ancient plateau formed by pre-cambrian crystalline rocks that extend from the North Bahia (near the right bank of the São Francisco River) southward to Serra do Ouro Branco, near the historical city of Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais (Moreira 1965). The dominant vegetation is a type of savanna known as campos rupestres or rock fields and lies in the Espinhaço Range (Giullieti & Pirani 1988) between 700 and 2,000 m in elevation (Stattersfield 1998). Plants grow in a wide variety of inhospitable substrates including stone, rock (epilithic), recently decomposed stony soils, or sandy soils. Because the Espinhaço Range is not continuous, but separated by deep and extensive river valleys in numerous patches, campos rupestres have a patchy distribution that makes speciation through species diversification within the ecoregion possible (Harley 1988). Each mountain portion of the Espinhaço Range is locally known as a "serra". The most famous and best studied serras are Serra do Cipó in Minas Gerais and Serra do Sincorá in Bahia. The climate is mesothermic with mild summers accompanied by a rainy season. There is also a 3 to 4 month dry season during the winter. The northern parts of the ecoregion are slightly hotter and dryer then the southern reaches. The average annual temperature varies from 17° to 20° C.
Campos rupestres are a mosaic of communities, under the control of local topography, microclimate and the nature of the substrate(Davis 1997; Giulietti & Pirani 1998). Outside of this ecoregion and campos areas, are the gallery forests of the Espinhaco Range. The campos rupestres are marked mainly by cerrado patches with sparse treelets and shrubs with thick bark including Qualea cordata, Q. parviflora, Byrsonima verbascifolia, Neea theifera, Caryocar brasiliense, Campomanesia adamantium and C. pubescens (Davis 1997). Surrounding these woody plants are the grasses Aristida, Paspalum stellatum and Axonopus brasiliensis, along with ferns and their allies, such as Anemia, Doryopteris and Huperzia (Davis 1997). The plants of these rocky fields although high in sandy substrates have adapted to this environment where water is not often readily available. For example, some plants in this ecoregion have anatomical or physiological modifications such as waxy surfaces on their leaves to reflect heat, hairs to protect against radiation, or tightly furled rosettes of leaves which secrete chemicals making them more resistant to fire (Davis 1997).
The extraordinary number of endemic species characterizes Campos Rupestres. The Espinhaço Range has been recognized as a center of endemism for plants (Giullietti & Pirani 1988; Harley 1988; Davis 1997). Predominant endemic plant families are Velloziaceae, Bromeliaceae, Xyridaceae, Eriocaulaceae, Cyperaceae, Gentinianaceae, and Lentibulariaceae, which are represented by numerous species such as Vellozia harley and Leiothrix hirsuta. Campos rupestres also harbors several threatened species from different groups of organisms. For instance, among the 538 threatened species of plants in the state of Minas Gerais, 358 (66.5 percent) are from campos rupestres (Costa et al. 1998).
This ecoregion is also recognized for its wildlife as a center of endemism for lizards (Rodrigues 1988), amphibians (Costa et al., 1998) and birds (Wege & Long 1995; Stattersfield 1998). There are several endemic species that occur all along the ecoregion, but there are several others that are restricted to one or a few islands of campos rupestres, indicating considerable species turnover within separate parts of the ecoregion. For example, two hummingbirds from the family Auguestes are found in this ecoregion however the hooded visorbearer (A. lumachellus) is confined to the northern section while hyacinth visorbearer (A. scutatus) is confined to the south (Stattersfield 1998). Other avifauna restricted to this ecoregion include Serra do Mar tyrant-manakin (Neopelma chrysolophum), Cipó canastero (EN) (Asthenes luizae) and Brasília tapaculo (VU) (Scytalopus novacapitalis) (Stattersfield 1998). Reptiles of the family Tropidurus are numerous including species of T. nanuzae, T. erythrocepalus, T. montanus and T. mucujensis. Amphibians species have also adapted to this seasonally dry ecoregion such as Hyla cipoensis, Physalaemus deimaticus and Proceratophilus cururu.
A large portion of this Campos Rupestres ecoregion remains in its natural state. However, threats are increasing and only 5% of the ecoregion is currently in the federal system of protected areas (Silva & Dinnouti 1999). Protected areas are located in the Espinhaço Range, mostly Serra do Cipó and Serra do Sincorá.
Types and Severity of Threats
Major threats in this ecoregion are mining, extraction of ornamental native plants, cattle ranching, tourism, fires, agribusiness and urban expansion (Costa et al. 1998). Also surrounding forested habitats are being cleared by timber extraction combining with the burning of savannas to increase grazing areas, large areas of habitat are being altered.
Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
These elevational patches of savanna and shrublands occur in southeastern Brazil in a archipelago like distribution from the caatinga southwards to the moist Mata Altantica forests. The isolation and unique savanna species associations distinguish this ecoregion, and a number of endemic species are present. The linework for these montane patches was derived from IBGE (1993). We identified their classification of "refugios montanos" as campos rupestres. However, only "refugios montanos" were classified as "campos rupestres" in order to separate them from other types of "campos" in southeastern Brazil's mountains. Our limits of the ecoregion follows Giuletti & Pirani (1988). It has been generally included within the cerrado region rather than Atlantic Forest complex (Ab'Saber 1983; Eiten 1990). There are other patches of campos rupestres in Goiás and Tocantins related floristically to ones of the Espinhaço Range (Harley 1988).
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Prepared by: Jose Maria
Reviewed by: In process