The Caatinga of Brazil is the largest dry forest region in South America and also one of the richest dry forests in the world, providing habitat for an array of flora and fauna species. It is home to 26 million people and over 2000 species of plants and animals.
Caatinga: Dry Forest
Caatinga is a type of desert vegetation that is generally stunted, somewhat sparse and often thorny vegetation of the dry interior of northeastern Brazil. It is also the name for the ecoregion that is characterized by this vegetation, primarily located in interior northeastern Brazil.
The Caatinga is a semiarid biome and the largest dry forest region in South America. It is one of the richest dry forests in the world. Caatinga is a Tupi word meaning "white forest".
Falling entirely within the earth's tropical zone and one of 6 major ecoregions of Brazil, the Caatinga covers 850,000 sq km (3,300,000 sq mi), nearly 10% of Brazil's territory. It is home to 26 million people and over 2000 species of plants, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.
The Caatinga is a xeric shrubland and thorn forest, which consists primarily of small, thorny trees that shed their leaves seasonally. Cacti, thick-stemmed plants, thorny brush, and arid-adapted grasses make up the ground layer. Most vegetation experiences a brief burst of activity during the three-month-long rainy season.
The Caatinga encompasses the drier part of northeastern Brazil (Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Sergipe, Alagoas, Bahia, and northern Minas Gerais).
To the northwest, the Caatinga is bounded by the Maranhão Babaçu forests; to the west and southwest, the Atlantic dry forests and Cerrado savannas; to the east, the humid Atlantic coastal forests; and to the north and northeast, the Atlantic Ocean.
Biome map of Brazil
This large scrubland in northeastern Brazil provides habitat for an array of flora and fauna species; over 1,200 species of vascular plants occur here, of which thirty percent is endemic.
This xeric shrubland and thorn forest consist primarily of small, thorny trees that shed their leaves seasonally. Cacti, thick-stemmed plants, thorny brush and arid-adapted grasses make up the ground layer. Most vegetation experiences a brief burst of activity during the three-month-long rainy season.
The biome's biodiversity is highly threatened due to exposure to land conversion for agricultural and cattle ranching. Particularly rich in avifauna, over three hundred and fifty species are found here including two of the ten most threatened birds in the world, the indigo macaw and little blue macaw.
The biodiversity of the Caatinga includes at least 185 fish species, 44 lizards, 9 amphibians, 47 snakes, 4 turtles, 3 crocodiles, 49 amphibians and 80 mammals.
Distinctive and endemic species of plants include Godmania dardanoi, Cordia globosa, Billbergia fosteriana, Cereus jamacaru, Melocactus oreas, Pilosocereus gounellei, Copernicia prunifera, and Ziziphus joazeir.
Distinctive species of birds include Lear's macaw (Anodorhynchus leari), Spix macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), and Moustached Woodcreeper (Xiphocolaptes falcirostris); mammals, a spiny rat (Proechimys yonenagae).
Distinctive species of lizards include Tropidurus amathites, Tropidurus divaricatus, and Tropidurus cocorobensis.
A large area of the Caatinga ecoregion is ranked today as highly threatened by desertification. In contrast with the huge proportion of the area under strong human pressure, less than one percent of the ecoregion is protected in parks or reserves.