While the Amazon is the largest and most well-known rain forest in South America, there’s another rain forest that’s also critically important for nature and people: the Atlantic Forest. Like the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest is a vital ecosystem teeming with unique plant and animal species. Unfortunately, that’s not all the two forests have in common: The Atlantic Forest is also critically threatened and needs our help.
The Atlantic Forest runs along the eastern coast of Brazil, stretching inland into Argentina and Paraguay. The ecoregion encompasses major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and is home to around 150 million people. In Brazil, the Atlantic Forest ecoregion produces 70% of the country’s gross domestic product or GDP.
This forest is also one of the richest natural areas on the planet, filled with iconic species like jaguars, sloths, tamarins, and toucans. Just 1 hectare of the Atlantic Forest can support 450 species of trees. Seven percent of the world’s plant species and 5% of the world’s vertebrate animal species are found there. And many of these plants and animals are endemic, meaning they don’t exist anywhere else on Earth.
New species are being documented in the Atlantic Forest all the time. Since 1990, more than 30 mammal species, nine bird species, and about 100 frog species have been discovered there. The forest also provides other important natural resources, including clean air and climate regulation, soil protection, pollination, food, medicine, and drinking water. In fact, 60% of Brazil’s population relies on water from the Atlantic Forest.
Despite the importance of this forest, it is one of the most threatened in the world. For the past 500 years, humans have changed the forest landscape with infrastructure development, agriculture, and tree plantations. Roughly 12% percent of the original forest in Brazil is left, much of it in small, unconnected fragments.