Atlantic forest lowlands

Country/Territory Argentina; Brazil; Paraguay
Area 290,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 1700 m
Priority critical
Habitat loss severe
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

This EBA covers an extensive stretch of coastal eastern Brazil and also parts of north-east Argentina and eastern Paraguay. It spans more than 2,500 km of the Atlantic slope coastline from central Bahia state south through the states of Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraná and Santa Catarina to Rio Grande do Sul. The southern end of the EBA extends inland into Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Paraná and Santa Catarina, and into north-east Argentina and eastern Paraguay in Caaguazú, Alto Paraná, Caazapá, Itapúa and easternmost Canindeyú. The continental divide between the Atlantic forest and the more arid region of interior Brazil is higher in altitude in the Serra do Mantaquiera and Serra do Mar in the south-eastern part of the EBA. In the higher-altitude areas of these mountains and embraced within this EBA lie the Atlantic forest mountains (EBA 076).

The Atlantic forest is estimated originally to have covered 1.09 million km2 (Brown and Brown 1992, Fearnside 1996), but a large proportion of this is the forest of the interior slopes of the continental divide. Indeed, Dinerstein et al. (1995) defined the Atlantic forest as comprising two ecoregions: coastal Atlantic forest (233,266 km2) and interior Atlantic forest (803,908 km2). This EBA relates best to the coastal Atlantic forest ecoregion as most of the restricted-range species are confined to the coastal slope, with fewer found in the interior Atlantic forest.

The natural vegetation of this region is mainly humid forest, often referred to as the 'Mata Atlântica'. These forests continue north of the EBA along the Atlantic slope as far as Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte states. The forest includes a number of distinct types ranging from coastal low-lying woodland scrub ('restinga') to tall evergreen formations (which are related both structurally and in species composition to Amazonian rain forest, characterized by over 1,000 mm of rainfall annually with no distinct dry period), semi-deciduous forest (normally found inland of the coastal slope and described as having c.1,000 mm annual rainfall with a clear dry season) and 'liana forest' (whic marks the transition zone between the humid forest and the dry deciduous forest of interior Brazil). There is no defined dry season in the southern part of the EBA in Paraguay; any month can have the most rainfall. The climate at this latitude is much more a summer/winter one. Floral diversity is very high, with several thousand species occurring, and the forests are probably among the richest areas in the world for tree diversity (some 53% are thought to be endemic), some studies in southern Bahia having found 425-450 species per ha (WWF/IUCN 1997).

Restricted-range species

This EBA has a particularly distinct avifauna including ten endemic genera-Triclaria, Ramphodon, Jacamaralcyon, Acrobatornis, Clibanornis, Cichlocolaptes, Biatas, Psilorhamphus, Merulaxis and Calyptura.

All the EBA's restricted-range bird species are forest-dwelling, but show distinct forest-type or altitudinal preferences (see 'Habitat associations' table): some, such as the recently described Phylloscartes kronei and Formicivora littoralis, are found only in the restinga woodland, which makes up a small fraction of the habitat in the EBA; others, such as several Sporophila spp., are found mainly in the bamboo stands which are present patchily within the forest.

In the original analysis (ICBP 1992; see also Brandão 1990), two EBAs were defined within this current EBA. Species confined to the Bahia and Espírito Santo lowlands were treated separately, but a further examination of their ranges showed that there is considerable overlap with the ranges of foothill species, and both groups have thus been combined into one EBA in the present study. A number of the birds in this newly defined EBA do not overlap with each other in distribution with, for instance, those formerly in the Bahia and Espírito lowlands EBA (Crax blumenbachii, Phaethornis idaliae, Glaucis dohrnii and Dysithamnus plumbeus) not co-occurring with species confined to the southern part of the EBA (such as Amazona brasiliensis, Phylloscartes kronei, Clibanornis dendrocolaptoides and Hemitriccus kaempferi). Overall, however, many species do overlap in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and southern Espírito Santo states (see 'Distribution patterns' table).

Many other bird species are largely confined to the Atlantic forest of Brazil (some entirely), but their ranges are judged to be greater than 50,000 km2 and they have therefore not been considered to have restricted ranges. Stotz et al. (1996) list 199 bird species as endemic to the Atlantic forest. Within their defined area they recognize four subregions of which two are largely embraced within this EBA: the Rio de Janeiro–Bahia lowlands (22 endemics), which corresponds to the central and northern half of this EBA, and the southern Atlantic coast (101 endemics), which is equivalent partly to the southern half of this EBA plus the Atlantic forest mountains (EBA 076).

Knowledge of south-east Brazil's avifauna is constantly improving through fieldwork and museum-based research, which is demonstrated by the discoveries in the last 10 years of Myrmotherula fluminensis, Formicivora littoralis, Scytalopus psychopompus, Phylloscartes kronei and Acrobatornis fonsecai as species new to science and all endemic to this EBA (with another three new species in adjacent EBA 076). A. fonsecai is a particularly interesting and remarkable find, being in its own genus and, although not a particularly cryptic bird, discovered only in 1995 in southern Bahia (Pacheco et al. 1996). Several new populations of restricted-range birds have been found in this region in recent years, providing further indication of the need for continuing surveys: Calyptura cristata, which had been unrecorded for more than a century and was thus thought possibly to be extinct, was rediscovered in 1996 (L. P. Gonzaga in litt. 1996), and Hemitriccus kaempferi, known from just two specimens, both collected before 1950, has now been seen regularly at its type-locality.

Species IUCN Red List category
Red-billed Curassow (Crax blumenbachii) EN
Saw-billed Hermit (Ramphodon naevius) LC
Hook-billed Hermit (Glaucis dohrnii) VU
Minute Hermit (Phaethornis idaliae) LC
Tawny-browed Owl (Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana) LC
Three-toed Jacamar (Jacamaralcyon tridactyla) NT
Yellow-eared Woodpecker (Veniliornis maculifrons) LC
Brown-backed Parrotlet (Touit melanonotus) NT
Blue-bellied Parrot (Triclaria malachitacea) LC
Red-tailed Amazon (Amazona brasiliensis) NT
Black-hooded Antwren (Formicivora erythronotos) EN
(Formicivora serrana) NR
(Formicivora littoralis) NR
Salvadori's Antwren (Myrmotherula minor) VU
Band-tailed Antwren (Myrmotherula urosticta) VU
Unicolored Antwren (Myrmotherula unicolor) NT
(Myrmotherula fluminensis) NR
Star-throated Antwren (Rhopias gularis) LC
Spot-breasted Antvireo (Dysithamnus stictothorax) NT
Plumbeous Antvireo (Dysithamnus plumbeus) VU
White-bearded Antshrike (Biatas nigropectus) VU
Rio de Janeiro Antbird (Cercomacra brasiliana) NT
Bertoni's Antbird (Drymophila rubricollis) LC
Scalloped Antbird (Myrmoderus ruficauda) EN
White-bibbed Antbird (Myrmoderus loricatus) LC
Squamate Antbird (Myrmoderus squamosus) LC
Fringe-backed Fire-eye (Pyriglena atra) EN
Spotted Bamboowren (Psilorhamphus guttatus) LC
Bahia Tapaculo (Eleoscytalopus psychopompus) EN
Slaty Bristlefront (Merulaxis ater) LC
Stresemann's Bristlefront (Merulaxis stresemanni) CR
Cryptic Antthrush (Chamaeza meruloides) LC
(Cichlocolaptes leucophrus) NR
White-browed Foliage-gleaner (Anabacerthia amaurotis) NT
Canebrake Groundcreeper (Clibanornis dendrocolaptoides) LC
Orange-eyed Thornbird (Phacellodomus erythrophthalmus) LC
Pink-legged Graveteiro (Acrobatornis fonsecai) VU
Striated Softtail (Thripophaga macroura) VU
Hooded Berryeater (Carpornis cucullata) LC
Banded Cotinga (Cotinga maculata) CR
White-winged Cotinga (Xipholena atropurpurea) VU
Buff-throated Purpletuft (Iodopleura pipra) EN
Kinglet Calyptura (Calyptura cristata) CR
Restinga Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes kronei) LC
Oustalet's Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes oustaleti) NT
Kaempfer's Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus kaempferi) VU
Fork-tailed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus furcatus) VU
Azure-shouldered Tanager (Tangara cyanoptera) NT
Black-backed Tanager (Tangara peruviana) VU
Gilt-edged Tanager (Tangara cyanoventris) LC
Cherry-throated Tanager (Nemosia rourei) CR
Black-legged Dacnis (Dacnis nigripes) NT
Dubois's Seedeater (Sporophila ardesiaca) LC
Temminck's Seedeater (Sporophila falcirostris) VU
Buffy-fronted Seedeater (Sporophila frontalis) VU

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
Country IBA Name IBA Book Code
Argentina Alta cuenca del arroyo Alegría AR119
Argentina Dos de Mayo AR128
Argentina Parque Nacional Iguazú y alrededores AR111
Argentina Parque Provincial Piñalito y alrededores AR121
Argentina Parque Provincial Urugua-í AR115
Argentina Parque Provincial Uruzú y Reserva Forestal San Jorge AR112
Argentina Reserva de la Biósfera Yabotí AR126
Argentina Reserva Privada Yaguaroundí AR124
Argentina San Pedro AR123
Brazil Área de Proteção Ambiental de Guaratuba BR208
Brazil Baía da Babitonga BR213
Brazil Baixo-Sul BR102
Brazil Bandeira / Macarani BR133
Brazil Complexo Pedra Azul / Forno Grande BR166
Brazil Estação Ecológica de Juréia-Itatins BR182
Brazil Fazenda Pindobas IV e Arredores BR163
Brazil Guaraqueçaba / Jacupiranga / Cananéia BR199
Brazil Ilhéus / Itabuna BR106
Brazil Itanagra BR096
Brazil Itarana BR161
Brazil Laranjal / Miracema BR149
Brazil Maciço Florestal de Paranapiacaba BR181
Brazil Parque Estadual da Serra do Mar (entre Caraguatatuba e Picinguaba) BR173
Brazil Parque Estadual do Desengano e Entorno BR184
Brazil Parque Nacional de Monte Pascoal BR116
Brazil Restinga de Maçambaba e Ilha de Cabo Frio BR192
Brazil Rio Mucuri BR119
Brazil Santa Teresa BR160
Brazil Serra Bonita BR111
Brazil Serra da Bocaina / Paraty / Angra dos Reis BR194
Brazil Serra de Itabaiana e Matas de Areia Branca BR125
Brazil Serra do Marumbi BR202
Brazil Serra do Tinguá BR190
Brazil Serra dos Órgãos BR188
Brazil Serras das Lontras e do Javi BR110
Brazil Sooretama / Linhares BR159
Brazil Una BR109
Paraguay Bosque Mbaracayú PY030
Paraguay Estancia Itabó PY036
Paraguay Morombi PY032
Paraguay Parque Nacional Caazapá PY042
Paraguay Parque Nacional San Rafael PY046
Paraguay Tapyta PY045
Paraguay Ybyturuzú PY035
Paraguay Ypeti PY039

Threat and conservation

This EBA lies within the most densely populated region of Brazil, being one of the first places in South America to be colonized by Europeans, 400 years ago. Destruction of the forest (e.g. for timber such as brazilwood Caesalpina echinata) began soon after their arrival. The fertile lands of the coastal plain were converted to agriculture, and then deforestation for mining, coffee, banana and rubber plantations occurred as the settlers moved inland (Fearnside 1996). The main threats to the remaining forest over the next 10 years will be urbanization, industrialization, agricultural expansion, colonization and associated road-building (Dinerstein et al. 1995). All this destruction has reduced the Atlantic forest in this EBA to less than 20% of its original extent, and in some parts, such as Bahia and Espírito Santo states, less than 10% remains (based on 1990 figures given in Brown and Brown 1992).

The poor state of the forest in the EBA is reflected by the fact that 31 of the restricted-range species are threatened; these include six classified as Critical and 12 as Endangered. An additional 12 more-widespread threatened species are almost wholly confined to the EBA: Black-fronted Piping-guan Pipile jacutinga (Vulnerable), Helmeted Woodpecker Dryocopus galeatus (Endangered), Golden-tailed Parrotlet Touit surda (Endangered), Red-browed Amazon Amazona rhodocorytha (Endangered), Blue-chested Parakeet Pyrrhura cruentata (Vulnerable), Purple-winged Ground-dove Claravis godefrida (Critical), White-necked Hawk Leucopternis lacernulata (Vulnerable), Black-headed Berryeater Carpornis melanocephalus (Vulnerable), Cinnamon-vented Piha Lipaugus lanioides (Vulnerable), Shrike-like Cotinga Laniisoma elegans (Vulnerable), São Paulo Tyrannulet Phylloscartes paulistus (Vulnerable) and Russet-winged Spadebill Platyrinchus leucoryphus (Vulnerable). Thus, c.13% of all the threatened birds in the Americas occur in this EBA, highlighting the exceptional importance of this area and the great need for conservation action to prevent future extinctions (Brooks and Balmford 1996, Collar et al. 1997).

A total of 73 Key Areas for threatened birds have been identified within the EBA, including 51 in Brazil, 13 in Paraguay and 8 in Argentina (Wege and Long 1995). Many of these areas hold more than five threatened species and 18 threatened species have been recorded from Desengano State Park in Rio de Janeiro, probably the highest total for any locality in the world. The level of protection in this EBA is quite good, 56 of the Key Areas having some form of protected status. It is clear, however, that on-the-ground protection, with adequate infrastructure to maintain and manage these areas, is often lacking.

Particularly important Key Areas in Brazil are Serra do Ouricana/Boa Nova (unprotected), Monte Pascoal National Park (225 km2), Porto Seguro/Florestas Rio Doce SA Forest (60 km2), Rio Doce State Forest Park (359 km2), Sooretama Federal Biological (240 km2), CVRD Forestry Reserve of Linhares (220 km2), Augusto Ruschi (Nova Lombardia) Federal Biological Reserve (45 km2), Desengano State Park (225 km2), Itatiaia National Park (300 km2), Serra dos Órgãos National Park (110 km2), Angra dos Reis (unprotected), Bairro do Corcovado in Serra do Mar State Park (3,148 km2), Fazenda Intervales State Reserve (380 km2), Ilhas Comprida and Cananéia Environmental Protection Area (2,028 km2) and Ilha do Cardoso State Park (225 km2). In Paraguay four Key Areas are of special importance for threatened and restricted-range birds: San Rafael National Park (600 km2), Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve (644 km2), Caaguazú National Park (160 km2) and Itabó Private Nature Reserve (27 km2) (Lowen et al. 1996). Notable areas in Argentina are Iguazú National Park (536 km2) and Arroyo Urugua-í Natural Reserve (840 km2) (Wege and Long 1995).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Atlantic forest lowlands. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/71 on 05/12/2023.