The Atlantic Forest Region

The Atlantic Forest region stretches for thousands of kilometers along Brazil's Atlantic coast, from the northern state of Rio Grande do Norte south to Rio Grande do Sul.

The forest extends inland to eastern Paraguay and the Misiones province of northeastern Argentina. Less than 10% of the Atlantic Forest remains.

The region holds an incredible 20,000 plant species, 40 percent of which are found no where else, in an area fifty times smaller than the Brazilian Amazon. Twenty-nine critically endangered vertebrate species are clinging to survival in the region, including three species of lion tamarins and the Alagoas currasow, which is extinct in the wild.

Hotspot Original Extent (sq. km.) 1,477,500
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (sq. km.) 121,600
Area Protected (sq. km.) 33,000
Plant Species 20,000
Endemic Plant Species 8,000
Terrestrial Vertebrate Species 1,668
Endemic Terrestrial Vertebrate Species 563
Threatened Species* 116
Critically Endangered Species* 28
Extinct Species* 1
* Endemic terrestrial vertebrates. Extinct species since 1500.


Because of its isolation from other major rain forest blocks in South America, the Atlantic Forest has evolved into an extremely diverse and unique mix of vegetation and forest types.

The two main ecoregions in the hotspot include the coastal Atlantic forest, which cover about 22.5 percent of the region and extend in a narrow strip of only about 50-100 kilometers from the coast in northern Brazil.

The interior Atlantic Forest, the second main ecoregion, stretches across the foothills of the Serra do Mar and related mountain ranges into southern Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

These inland forests reach as far as 500-600 kilometers from the coast and range as high as 1,800-2,000 meters in elevation.

The entire Atlantic Forest region once included more than 1.4 million km² of unbroken tropical and subtropical rainforest. Now only about 8 percent of the original forest remains in the hotspot.

The narrow strip of northeastern coastal forest in Brazil has suffered the most devastation, with only about three percent of its original forest cover remaining.

Perhaps the best preserved areas of forest in Brazil survive on steep slopes of the coastal Serra do Mar mountains in São Paulo and Paraná and in the center of Rio de Janeiro.

Greater proportions of native forest survive in Argentina, where half the province of Misiones is still covered in Atlantic Forest.

Paraguay retains about 13 percent of its original interior Atlantic Forest.

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