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Coastal Atlantic Forests of South America Hotspot

Bordering the Atlantic coasts of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, the Coastal Atlantic Forest of South America extends over an area of 1,233,875 sq km. The vegetation is varied and consists of lowland forest, montane forests and high altitude grasslands.

It is home to 20,000 plant, 264 mammal, 934 bird, 311 reptile, 456 amphibian and 350 freshwater fish species. Endemism among plants and trees is quite high. The forests also have spectacular bird diversity and some of the birds found here are the unusual red-billed curassow (Crax blumenbachii), the rare Brazilian merganser (Mergus octosetaceus) and the Alagoas foliage-gleaner (Philydor noveasi). Mammalian inhabitants of the Atlantic forests are the thin-spined porcupine (Chaetomys subspinosus), painted tree rat (Callistomys pictus), the maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus) and the rare Brazilian arboreal mouse (Rhagomys rufescens). One of the flagship species of the region is the lion tamarin (Leontopithecus spp.).

Threatened reptiles include the golden lancehead (Bothrops insularis), the Brazilian snake-necked turtle (Hydromedusa maximiliani) and the Hoge's sideneck turtle (Phrynops hogei). Marine turtles like the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) are found in the waters off the coast. Critically endangered amphibians found in single localities are the Phyllomedusa ayeaye, Scinax alcatraz and Hyla cymbalum.

Forests have been cleared for commercial agriculture, timber extraction, sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee plantations, paper and pulp industries setting up cattle ranches and for fuelwood and charcoal. Other threats include rapid urbanisation and pollution. Today about 50,370 sq km is under some form of protection.

The region has over 700 active non-governmental organisations and considerable interventions to protect the environment give some hope for conservation of these forests.

[The information has been sourced from the Conservation International website on biodiversity hotspots ( Accessed in February 2008.]

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