The Mata Atlântica Biosphere Reserve is the pioneer of the Brazilian biosphere reserves. It covers important portions of the Atlantic Forest in 14 Brazilian states. This unique ecosystem stretches over 1,800 miles parallel to the coast, comprising Serra Mantiqueira, Serra Geral and Serra do Mar.
The Mata Atlântica Biosphere Reserve (Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve), established in 1992, is the pioneer of the Brazilian biosphere reserves. It covers important portions of the Atlantic Forest in 14 states — the State of Minas Gerais and 13 coastal states (from Ceará to Rio Grande do Sul) — including the São Paulo City Green Belt.
The Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve covers tropical humid forests in mountain and highland systems and coastal marine environments. The moist, sub-tropical, semi-deciduous forest includes species such as Araucaria angustifolia, Podocarpus lambertii and Drimys brasiliensis. Associated ecosystems include upland meadows with grasses and small heaths, cerrado, mangroves, salt marsh scrublands and sand spits.
The remnants of the Atlantic Forest are associated with relevant secondary forests, this forming a unique ecosystem stretching along a distance of more than 3,000 km (1800 mi) parallel to the coast, comprising Serra Mantiqueira, Serra Geral and Serra do Mar. These very rare Atlantic Forest remnants and associated ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marsh scrublands as well as sand spits and upland grasslands are under pressure from the highest populated areas in the country.
The many protected areas in the biosphere reserve include the Caraça Natural Park, the Itatiaia National Park and the privately-owned Caratinga Biological Station, home to a population of the highly endangered woolly spider monkeys, three other primates and more than 200 rare birds.
In 1993, the São Paulo City Green Belt Biosphere Reserve was added as an integral part of the Mata Atlántica Biosphere Reserve, covering another 72 municipalities. In addition to promote improved protection of the forest ecosystem remnants and the biodiversity, another major objective is to develop sustainable uses and social practices.
In order to respond to the special need for large-scale ecosystem conservation and management, a wide range of management, scientific and community organizations have joined together in setting up the Mata Atlántica Biosphere Reserve system. Almost all States participating already have state-level committees. The main aim is to conserve and restore ecological corridors as well as significant portions of the Atlantic Forest’s biological diversity, which is among the richest in the world. Almost 100 million people (2002) live in the urban and industrial areas of 3,000 out of the 5,507 municipalities within this Biosphere Reserve.