Into the Atlantic Forest
In the lush green forest, the inertia is suddenly broken by manifestations of wildlife. Sunset carries with it the last rays of light permeating branches, bringing the darkness to its elusive nocturnal beings. A colossal bush that stretches across the coast of the South Atlantic ocean in Brazil and beyond borders with Argentina and Paraguay. However, the Ka’agwy marã’eý, Infinite Forest in the indigenous language Guarani, is no longer infinite. After five centuries of human exploitation, the biome that once covered about 1.3 million km2, today lays on less than 12% of its original coverage, distributed mainly in small fragments surrounded by landscapes modified by man.
With its origin dating between 90 and 100 million years ago, on the Gondwana continent, the Atlantic Forest has undergone a succession of climatic and geological events that have contributed to its expansion and diversity of ecosystems. From warm sands where endangered sea turtles lay their eggs to majestic rainforests teeming with life. From mangroves that act as nurseries sheltering and feeding numerous species to the cold misty mountains of the south full of Araucaria trees. An outstanding biodiversity hotspot that holds more than 5% of vertebrate species and world flora, concentrated in only 0.8% of the earth's terrestrial coverage. Not only a keeper of great diversity, but of an unique diversity - approximately 40% of these species are endemic.
Occupation and use of the Atlantic Forest clearly refers to the original peoples of our land long before the arrival of Europeans. But despite the large number of indigenous who once inhabited the biome, it was only after the arrival of the new settlers that the land saw its forest crumble and its landscape change drastically.
Over 100 million people live in the Atlantic rainforest range, nearly 60% of the total population in the country. About 150 thousand inhabitants of 29 indigenous ethnicities – being the Guaranis the most numerous; and several other traditional communities, such as caiçaras and quilombolas. All relying directly and indirectly on the ecosystem services provided by the biome, such as water – energy; food; shelter; climate regulation and rainfall distribution, controlling soil stability and river and reservoir levels.
Under a severe loss of habitat and fragmentation, environmental disturbances and climate change, several areas have experienced shifts in the frequency and abundance of species, facing defaunation and alterations in the structure of biological communities and ecosystem functions at different scales.
It is a dangerous scenario for an already devastated biome to glimpses an uncertain and fearful future fastly approaching.
But the Atlantic Forest remais resilient and this resilience represents a unique opportunity to take care of its biodiversity and seek actions and solutions that benefit nature and all those who depend on it in the short and long term.
Into the Atlantic Forest is a long-term project that aims to document the biological and cultural diversity of the biome throughout its distribution, highlighting the importance and need for different protection measures and conservation efforts.
After years working as a scientific researcher in the academy I realized that by directing our researches and efforts to the scientific public alone, we limit knowledge and prevent others from recognizing the true role of nature in our lives and the innumerable and positive ways of relate to it. I therefore decided to investigate this biome I have lived and researched for most of my life with a different perspective, and brought a new tool: photography.
Almost 3,000 kilometers of protected areas have been covered, from the northeast to south, by 12 Brazilian states and to the border with Misiones, Argentina, including national parks, biological reserves, extractive reserves and indigenous territories, and accompanying researchers in their field efforts to protect endangered species.
Acknowledgments to the researchers from Projeto Lontra (SC), Pró-Tapir (ES), Associação Mico-Leão Dourado (RJ), Projeto Muriqui de Caratinga (MG), Tamar (SE), Projeto Peixe-Boi Marinho (PA) and Projeto Baleia à Vista (SP) for allowing me to join and document their work in the field and for dedicating themselves to the preservation of our biodiversity. Thanks to the Guaranis leaders of São Paulo, Espírito Santo and Misiones, Argentina, the Quilombola Master and everyone who received me and shared some of their culture and history.