is more than 8.5 million km2 and has almost 7,500 kilometers of coastline. The
climate varies between equatorial, tropical, and subtropical. There are approximately
180 million inhabitants distributed unevenly throughout the country. The population
density of the coastal states can reach 306 inhabitants per km2 while in the
Amazon region it is only 1.1 inhabitants per km2.
There are seven defined biomes in Brazil: Amazon, Caatinga,
Campos Sulinos, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal and Coastal Ecosystems. In
a recent survey coordinated by Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos
Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA), Brazil was divided in 78 terrestrial ecoregions.
Areas with similar features were grouped in the same ecoregion in order to help
IBAMA better prioritize and plan its biodiversity conservation activities.
Brazilian biodiversity is among the highest in the world,
embracing about 10% of the 1.4 million species known to science. Two Brazilian
biomes, the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado, have been identified among the
25 biodiversity "hotspots" due to their exceptional concentrations
of endemic species and their high rates of habitat loss (Myers et al. 2000).
National System of Protected Areas
Brazil's current protected areas system,
the National System of Natural Conservation Units, was created in 2000 by Federal
Law No 9.985. It is composed of federal, state and municipal conservation units.
These conservation units are divided in two separate categories: full protection
conservation units and sustainable use conservation units.
National parks, ecological stations,
biological preserves, natural monuments and wildlife refuges are all considered
full protection conservation units. Legally, only non-consumptive resource uses
are allowed within the full protection conservation units, as the objective
of these units is nature preservation. The sustainable use conservation units
include national forests, fauna reserves, extractive reserves, relevant ecological
interest areas, sustainable development reserves, environmental protection areas
and natural heritage private preserves. The goal of the sustainable use conservation
units, as the name suggests, is to combine conservation with sustainable resource
IBAMA is the federal agency responsible
for the federal conservation units, among many other things. The headquarters
is in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. IBAMA is part of the Ministry of the
Environment, which is the agency responsible for the execution of the national
politics of the environment. See their website at: http://www.ibama.gov.br/.
Today, 2.8% of Brazil's territory is represented by full
protection conservation units and 3.5% by sustainable use conservation units.
None of Brazil's biomes is satisfactorily protected. Only about 10% of the Amazon
biome and 13% of the coastal ecosystem biome are protected by federal conservation
units, while others such as Pantanal or the transition area between the Cerrado
and the Amazon have less than one percent protection.
Realizing its responsibility, Brazil has taken important
steps towards protecting its environment and biodiversity. During the last five
years, Brazil created several new conservation units totaling more than 12.3
million hectares. This represents a 30% increase in federally protected areas.
The most notable new conservation unit is Tumucumaque Mountains National Park,
which, with 3.9 million hectares, is the largest tropical protected area in
the world. In addition, over the next 10 years, the Brazilian government plans
to protect an additional 50 million hectares of the Amazon region.