The Serra do Mar coastal forests in southeastern Brazil, an ecoregion of the tropical moist forests biome, represent the largest continuous block of montane Atlantic forest and one of the more remarkable centers of endemism in South America.
Serra do Mar Coastal Forests
The Serra do Mar coastal forests ecoregion covers a 1000 km (620 mi) long by 100 km (62 mi) wide strip along the Atlantic coast of southeastern Brazil. It is an ecoregion of the tropical moist forests biome and the South American Atlantic Forest biome.
The Serra do Mar coastal forests represent the largest continuous block of montane Atlantic forest and one of the more remarkable centers of endemism in South America.
This ecoregion features the slopes and high summits of the Serra do Mar mountain range occupied by montane forests of Bromeliaceae, Myrtaceae, Melastomataceae, and Lauraceae species.
This ecoregion contains outstanding biodiversity in endemism and species richness of flora, mammals, birds, and herpetofauna. However, more than half of the original forest has been altered; urban development and tourism constitute the main threats to this ecoregion.
The climate is subtropical, with high annual rainfall levels ranging from 1,400 - 4,000 mm (55 - 157 in) without a dry period. Moisture-laden clouds from the Atlantic Ocean keep the largely lush, tropical rainforest wet year-round, and most tree species are evergreen.
Flora and Fauna
The Serra do Mar remains an eco-rich region containing numerous endemic species, many of which are threatened with extinction. Over half of the tree species and 92% of the amphibians are endemic to this forest.
Approximately 40% of Serra do Mar's vascular plants, and 60% of its vertebrates are endemic to the forest. In addition, more than 140 threatened terrestrial species common to Brazil are found in the Atlantic Forest.
New species are continually found here; more than 1,000 new ﬂowering plants were discovered in the Serra do Mar between 1990 and 2006.
Among the local plants are ﬂowering Cassia (Cassia ﬁstula); Tibouchina (a genus of about 350 species of neotropical plants in the Melastomataceae family); orchids (Orchidaceae); a family of monocot ﬂowering plants called Bromeliaceae; many local varieties of the myrtle (Myrtaceae) family; and true laurel (Lauraceae).
The Serra do Mar forest has approximately 350 recorded bird species. It is an important breeding ground for the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), red-tailed Amazon (Amazona brasiliensis), and black-fronted piping guan (Pipile jacutinga), among many others.
Birdlife International has recognized this ecoregion as a center of avian endemism, with some 55 species of endemic and restricted-range birds present, 28 of which are considered threatened.
Among the endangered avifauna are the red-billed curassow, brown-backed parrotlet, red-tailed Amazon, blue-bellied parrot, hook-billed hermit, three-toes jacamar, black-hooded antwren, fringe-backed fire-eye, Stresemann's battlefront, Bahia tapaculo, and kinglet calyptura.
Among the endemic mammal species are the endangered woolly monkey (Brachyteles arachnoides) and the critically endangered black-faced lion tamarin (Leontopithecus caissara).
Many endemic species are so rare that their conservation status remains unknown, such as the oﬃcially data-deﬁcient Ihering's three-striped opossum (Monodelphis iheringi).
The Serra do Mar forest also hosts populations of the endemic and critically endangered golden frog (Brachycephalus pernix) and a newly identiﬁed species of blonde capuchin (Cebus queirozi).
Other noteworthy ecosystem species include the jaguar; ocelot; bush dog; La Plata otter; 20 bat species; and several endangered primates, notably muriqui and brown howler monkey.
The most extensive and best-protected tracts of the Brazilian Atlantic forest are located in this ecoregion. Approximately 70% of the original forest has already been altered by settlement and agriculture, and about one-half is currently in protected areas.
The primary ongoing threats to this ecoregion are urban development and tourism infrastructure.
Map of the Serra do Mar coastal forests (in green) as delineated by WWF.