A biome is a set of vegetation types that covers large contiguous areas on a regional scale, with similar flora and fauna, as defined by the physical conditions prevailing in those regions. These climatic, geographical and lithological (pertaining to rocks) aspects, for example, result in a biome endowed with a natural, peculiar biological diversity.
In Brazil, the existing biomes are (from the largest to the smallest): Amazon, Atlantic Forest, Caatinga, Pampa and Pantanal.
Learn about each biome in Brazil below:
Approximante size: 4,196,943 km2
Amazon is the largest biodiversity reserve in the world and the largest biome in Brazil, occupying almost half (49.29%) of the country. This biome completely covers five states (Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Pará and Roraima), almost all of Rondônia (98.8%) and large parts of Mato Grosso (54%), Maranhão (34%) and Tocantins (9%). It is dominated by a hot and humid climate (average temperature 25 °C) and forests. It has well-distributed rainfall during the year and rivers with permanent heavy flow.
The Brazilian Amazon is marked by the Amazon basin, which drains 20% of the volume of freshwater in the world. Brazil holds 60% of the basin, which occupies 40% of South America and 5% of the Earth’s surface, with an area of approximately 6.5 million square kilometers. The interaction of various geographical and climatic conditions that prevail in the Amazon results in a vast variety and wealth in terms of fauna and flora. It is estimated that this biome is home to more than half of all living species in Brazil.
The characteristic vegetation
of the Brazilian Amazon is tropical rain forest, usually composed of tall trees.
In the plains accompanying the Amazon River and its tributaries are the lowland
forests (periodically flooded) and igapó forests (permanently flooded). Aspects
of the savanna, the campinarana, pioneering formations and ecological
sanctuaries are also present in this biome.
Approximante size: 2,036,448 km2
Cerrado is the second largest biome in South America and covers 22% of the Brazilian territory. It completely covers the Federal District and most of Goiás (97%), Tocantins (91%), Maranhão (65%), Mato Grosso do Sul (61%), Minas Gerais (57%) and smaller areas of six other states. The Cerrado holds the source of three major basins in South America (Amazon/Tocantins, São Francisco and Prata), which results in high water potential and rich biodiversity. This biome is home to more than 6,500 catalogued plant species.
In the Cerrado there is a predominance of savanna formations and a hot sub-humid tropical climate, a dry season and a rainy season, with an average annual temperature between 22 °C and 27 °C. In the highlands, with extensive plains, are gallery forests, known as riverside and riparian forests, along the watercourse and evergreen foliage all year round; the lowlands, in wet valleys, consist of groups of buriti palms on a layer of grasses.
Approximate size: 1,110,182 Km2
The Atlantic Forest is an environmental complex that includes mountain ranges, valleys, plateaus and level lands throughout the east Atlantic continental range of Brazil, and continues on over the Meridiano Plateau to the state of Rio Grande do Sul. It completely covers the states of Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina, 98% of Paraná, and parts of over 11 other states.
This biome is a large
combination of extra-Amazonian forest. Its main type of vegetation is tropical
rain forest, usually consisting of tall trees and related to a hot and humid
climate. The Atlantic has been one of the richest and most varied groups of
rain forest in South America, but is now recognized as the most uncharacteristic
biome, due to the early episodes of colonization and the development cycles of
Approximate size: 844,453 Km2
The Caatinga (indigenous name), meaning “clear and open forest”, is uniquely Brazilian and occupies about 11% of the country. It is the main biome of the northeast region, occupying the whole of Ceará, and parts of Rio Grande do Norte (95%), Paraíba (92%), Pernambuco (83%), Piauí (63%), Bahia (54% ), Sergipe (49%), Alagoas (48%) and Maranhão (1%). The Caatinga also covers 2% of Minas Gerais.
It presents a wealth of environments and species, with much of that diversity unique to this biome. Drought, heat and light characteristic of tropical areas result in a steppe-like, thorny and deciduous (when the leaves fall at a given time) savanna vegetation. There are also mountain ranges, swamps and pockets with warmer climates.
This biome is subject to two
dry seasons per year: a long period of drought, followed by intermittent rain
and a short drought followed by torrential rains (with intervals that can last
years). These two seasons highlight the contrasts of the Caatinga: the biome is at times
barren, gray and thorny; at other times it is greener, covered by a significant
amount of small leaves. Of the original savanna ecosystems, 80% have changed,
particularly because of deforestation and burning.
Approximate size: 176,496 Km2
The Pampa biome is present only in Rio Grande do Sul, occupying 63% of the territory of the state. It comprises the South American pampas, stretching through Uruguay and Argentina, and is internationally classified as steppe. The Pampa is marked by rainy weather, without a dry season, and with regular polar fronts with freezing temperatures in winter.
The vegetation consists of pampa grass and shrubs, covering a
slightly undulating leveled relief. Forests are not common in this biome and
where they occur, consist of tropical rain forest (tall trees) and deciduous
forest (trees that shed their leaves during the dry season).
Approximate size: 150,355 Km2
Pantanal biome covers 25% of Mato Grosso do Sul and 7% of Mato Grosso, and its limits coincide with those of the plain of the Pantanal, known as Pantanal. The Pantanal is a biome all but unique to Brazil, as only a small part of it enters other countries (Paraguay and Bolivia).
It is characterized by long-term flooding (due to the low permeability of the soil) that occurs annually in the plain, and causes changes in the environment, wildlife and the daily life of local people. The predominant vegetation is savanna, but there are formations of savanna steppe and small areas of semi-deciduous and deciduous forests.
Almost all of the Brazilian fauna is represented in the Brazilian Pantanal. During the flood, some species such as birds and mammals move to the nearby high ground. The original vegetation of areas surrounding Pantanal has been largely replaced by crops and pastures, a process that has repercussions for the plain of the Pantanal.