Home » Wild places » South America » Atlantic forest » Atlantic Forest in Brazil

Atlantic Forest in Brazil


The Atlantic Forest in Brazil is among the most endangered rainforests in the world. But despite its mass destruction, it still contains an awe-inspiring diversity of plants and animals - many of them unique to the Atlantic Forest and threatened with extinction.

The Atlantic Forest region was the first part of Brazil to be colonised, back in the 16th century. Today it's home to 133 million people - 70% of the country’s population.

It also produces 80% of Brazil’s gross national product. What remains of the Atlantic Forest is vital to the livelihoods and quality of life of local people - it provides watershed protection (safeguarding freshwater supplies for people and wildlife), prevents soil erosion and helps to maintain the environmental conditions necessary for Brazil’s cities, industries and rural areas to thrive.

The Serra do Mar State Park

Landscape of São Sebastião Unit, Serra do Mar State Park, São Paulo, Brazil.

The Serra do Mar State Park is the largest protected area in the Atlantic Forest. It was established in 1977, covers just over 3,150km2, and contains 46% of all amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals in the region.

The water that comes from the park supplies a population of 1.5 million people. And, as the park is situated in one of Brazil’s most developed and urbanised regions, it acts as a green corridor that connects other smaller fragments of Atlantic Forest.

Why we're involved

Flora of Serra do Mar State Park

The park’s habitats and biodiversity are threatened by hunting and by habitat fragmentation to make way for roads, power lines and the expansion of urban areas.

In both the short and long term these threaten to diminish the value of the park as a natural area. The landscape is compromised, busy roads stress wildlife and cause noise and pollution, and fragmentation makes illegal hunting easier. Animals that need large areas for shelter and food suffer.

At the moment the park is not officially open to the public, and the people who visit have little access to the sparse visitor services. There is a strong interest within the region to establish the park for tourism and leisure purposes.

Tourism would help generate valuable income for the park and local communities, and would help increase awareness of the park’s importance among both locals and visitors.

How we're helping

Surucua trogon, Atlantic Rainforest, Brazil

We aim to protect the largest remnant of Brazil’s Atlantic Forests - the Serra do Mar State Park - by helping transform this ‘paper park’ into an effective protected area.

‘Paper parks’ are parks that have been legally established but lack the vital aspects of on-the-ground management, such as park guards and methods of monitoring habitats and species.

In the case of Serra do Mar, when the project began in 2008 there was an innovative management plan which had yet to be put into action. We're helping turn the area into a model protected park within an urban landscape.

It's serving as a test bed and an example of strengthened management that is catalysing improvements for all Sao Paolo’s protected areas.

Effective protected areas safeguard biodiversity for future generations, as well as guarding critical environmental services such as water supplies. Local communities also benefit in many ways, including improved recreation facilities and income generation.

By the end of 2011, together with the state government of Sao Paulo's Forest Foundation, we hope to have enabled the public to access and use the Serra do Mar park responsibly, thanks to clear guidance and better practices for tourism, which will also help protect its public use areas.

The Forest Foundation is responsible for the management, conservation and enlargement of Sao Paulo’s forests, including the Serra do Mar protected area. We're also working to ensure that park staff and others such as the park’s advisory council, key policy-makers and the environmental police, are trained in park management for tourism.

Our actions will help ensure that the park and its incredible diversity of species are properly protected.

Useful links

Other projects in Brazil

Guide to the Birds of São Paulo’s Atlantic Forest

Guide to the Birds of São Paulo’s Atlantic Forest

Guide to the Birds of São Paulo’s Atlantic Forest

The bird guide catalogues forty-eight bird species with their scientific names and common names, accompanied by scientific data, photographs and a brief description of the habitats, behaviour and peculiarities of each one in Portuguese and English.