Atlantic Forests, South America

Stretching along South America's east coast and extending inland towards the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest is one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions. It is also one of the most vulnerable. WWF is racing against the clock to protect what remains of this once great forest.

 / ©: Michel GUNTHER / WWF-Canon
The Atlantic forests are home to the jaguar, South America’s largest big cat and the third largest cat in the world.
© Michel GUNTHER / WWF-Canon
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Atlantic forest canopy. Una Biological Reserve, Bahia, Brazil.
© Edward Parker / WWF-Canon

Second only to the Amazon

The Atlantic Forest stretches from northeast Brazil, south along the Brazilian Atlantic coastline and inland into northeast Argentina and eastern Paraguay.
Although only a small part of the original forests remains, it is still one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, second only to the Amazon.

The forest is home to around 20,000 species of plants. Some 450 tree species have been found in just one hectare.

There are also thousands of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, including endangered jaguars, golden lion tamarins, woolly spider monkeys, maned three-toed sloths and red-tailed parrots.

Conserving what's left

Very little of the Atlantic Forest remains and what does is highly fragmented.

The forests continue to be vulnerable to logging and agricultural expansion, particularly soy production. Habitat loss and hunting put many species in danger of extinction.

WWF is working in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina to encourage forest conservation and better management of protected areas.

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Straddling Brazil and Argentina, Iguaçu Falls in the Atlantic Forest are listed as a UN World Heritage Site.
© Michel GUNTHER / WWF-Canon

Protected areas

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Juan Pratginestos
The golden lion tamarin is just one of many unique inhabitants of the Atlantic Forest.
© WWF-Canon / Juan Pratginestos
The Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, in the Brazilian states of Paraná and São Paulo, contain some of the best and most extensive examples of Atlantic forest in Brazil. These 25 protected areas, covering some 470,000ha, are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Paraguay, Mbaracayu National Park and San Rafael Lagoon National Park - 2 of the most important blocks of Atlantic Forest remaining in the country - have been recognized by UNESCO as Biosphere Reserves. WWF has awarded the Paraguayan government with the Leaders for the Living Planet Award in recognition of its efforts to conserve the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest.

Where is the Atlantic Forest region

The Atlantic Forest region is highlighted in orange.


View WWF Critical Regions of the World in a larger map

Facts & Figures

    • Of the 1,000,000km2 (386,000 sq miles) of original Atlantic Forest that once blanketed the coast of Brazil, just 7% now remains.
    • In Paraguay some 13% of the original forest remains.
    • More than 52% of the tree species and 92% of the amphibians in the Atlantic Forest are found nowhere else in the world.
    • 6,000 plant species, 263 amphibians and 160 mammals, including 22 primate species, are endemic.
    • Two of the world's largest cities - Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo - lie within the Atlantic forests.
    • Charles Darwin explored the area during his expedition on the Beagle in 1832. 

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