Mata Atlantica


The Mata Atlantica (The Atlantic Forest) is a forest that stretches along the coast of Brazil and down into Argentina and Uruguay.  Covering a major part of Brazil, it is the second biggest forest in South America and is meant to be more biodiverse than the Amazon Rainforest, known for Bromeliads and Orchids.  The Mata Atlantica is where the clouds and rain gather in from the Atlantic Ocean covering the mountains along the coast. It is thought that only 7% of the original forest remanis and only 2% of this is primary forest.

Active Ingredient has visited the region of the Mata Altantica in Sao Paulo state, where large Euclyptus farms have taken over from the original forest and in the Guanabara Bay region going up to the mountains behind Rio de Janeiro, meeting farmers, forest rangers, schools, educators and scientists working in both regions.

Here are the questions posed by the school group from Djangoly Academy in Nottingham during the Dark Forest school’s exchange. They were answered by Ricardo Reis and Bruno Rezende, both botanists who work in Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Gardens and responsible for the living collections.

What is the height of trees in the Atlantic Forest in Rio?

RR: The Atlantic Forest is a very important ecosystem in Brazil, which covers areas to the north and south of Rio de Janeiro. The heights are varied, and this is characteristc of the Mata Atlântica’s rich biodiversity. There are many types of plants. When you look at the forest you note it is very dense, there is no standard height for the trees.
BR: The maximum height of a tree in the Atlantic forest reaches 50 meters in height, the Jequitibá tree. There are many different heights below this.

What is the process you use to measure the age of the trees?

RR: At the Botanical Gardens we do not have the habit of measuring the age of our trees. We have a record of the date they were planted. There are various techniques to measure the age of a tree.
BR: It is possible to drill the tree with an “auger” and count the growth rings.

What types of creatures exist around the tree?

RR: Mainly insects. In Brazil we have many beetles and flies, and less bees. Many kinds of wasps and mosquitoes, insects as a whole. We have lizards and snakes too, which we sometimes see, but not very often. In the Mata Atlântica’s larger rivers we can find turtles and crocodiles I have seen. Some mammals such as panthers also exist, but these are rare. We can easily find small mammals like rodents, who are nocturnal.
BR: We can hear and see many birds with binoculars and without.

What is the average temperature in the Atlantic Forest?

RR: Within the forest it is considerably cooler than outside of the forest. The forest regulates its own temperature, and the average is around 20-22 degrees in the summer and 16-18 degrees during the winter. The temperature is regulated by the density of the forest.
BR: Temperature changes also with varying altitudes.

At what temperature can the trees survive?

RR: The cold is more problematic for the forest than the heat. Frozen water caused by the cold temperatures would dehydrate the plants as water becomes unavailable to them. The level of humidity is high in this ecosystem and it depends on its levels of water. The tropical ecosystem can adjust to heat better to a certain extent, but if it rises too much, this too could cause many species of plants and animals to suffer.

What can you hear in the forest other than the wind?

RR: Cicadas, crickets and birds in general. The cicadas make a sound when the weather is heating up which is very interesting.

Approximately how many trees are there in the forest?

RR: It is impossible to quantify, there are over 40,000 plant species within the Mata Atlântica.

Are there noble trees in the forest?

RR: Yes, there are noble trees, considered to be those that reach large sizes and those which the wood has a good use, such as for construction. Pau Brazil, Jequitibá, Jacarandá, Ipê and Cedar and noble species which are threatened species (IBAMA), but not extinct.

The photograph above shows you the palm tree the transcribed presentation below by Bruno Rezende to the group from Camilo Castelo Branco school in Rio de Janeiro is speaking about. Bruno explains why he chose this particuar species to put the sensors under, and how it highlights much of what is important about the Mata Atlântica:

Look at the trunk of this tree, what can you see? At first glance it looks like a normal trunk, but if you follow the trunk up and up, you’ll see there are only leaves, there are no branches. It is a palm tree. This tree is part of the Arecaceae family. And palm trees are one of the most common families within the tropical forests of the world, including Brazil.

Brazil is one of the countries that has the most palms in the world, with more than 1500 different species. Tall palm trees, medium palm trees and small ones. Like this one, which can reaches higher than the other trees around it as it reaches up to the sun. The plants are always seeking light. They need light to make photosynthesis, its food. So they grow to compete for light, grow to reach the light high up. A German botanist, Von Martius, came to Brazil and called it a Pindorama, which means land of palm trees.

This palm is a species that only occurs in the Atlantic Forest, which is the original forest that covered the coastal states of Brazil, from Santa Catarina to the northeast, crossing over into the rest of the continent a little too. The popular name of this tree is Coquinho Babassu, which has
berries edible for humans, birds, monkeys, lizards, once they fall on the floor. This tree is very beneficial to the ecosystem it lives in and its roots also help stabilize the soil. The scientific name of this palm is Syagrus Roman – Zoffiana, and this species measures about 25 meters height.

The plant Jibóia that curls across and up the trunk of the palm tree illustrates one of the most important characteristics of tropical forests: plants growing on top of trees. Epiphytes and Lianas (a type of vine) grow from the ground onto trees and upwards. There are many types of Epiphytes and Lianas. This palm tree is host to a Liana.


Posted: August 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Featured | ↑ Back to top