Iracambi is a community of people across the world whose vision is to see the Atlantic Forest restored, with thriving communities living in a flourishing landscape. At our headquarters in Minas Gerais, the Iracambi Research Center, a division of our non-profit Amigos de Iracambi, spearheads our work in managing natural resources, educating for sustainability and researching ecosystems and how we impact them.
The Iracambi logo shows what we are all about. The Brazilian story goes that the forest is on fire and all the animals are fleeing to safety. All except for the humming bird who is flying towards the fire with a drop of water in her beak. “Silly little bird,” says the eagle as he looks down at her. “Don’t you realize that you’ll never put the fire out all by yourself?” “You’re right,” says the humming bird. “I know I can’t do it by myself. But I’m doing my part.”
We’ve been doing our part since 1999, and with your help we’ll be here as long as it takes. Come join us, and be part of the change!
Deforestation along springs and streams of Serra do Brigadeiro, in Brazil's Atlantic Rainforest, has led to a series of challenges for the rural community, such as soil fertility loss, dry springs and water pollution. Despite this, small farmers have traditionally resisted reforestation efforts, afraid it would impact their crop yield. In our program, native seedlings and agricultural crops will be interspersed in a way that is mutually beneficial for the farmers and the environment.
The solution is simple: strategic reforestation. Still, small rural producers have resisted reforestation efforts, afraid native seedlings would compete for space with their crops. We´ll offer individual assistance to each of these farmers to ensure their realities are understood, designing specific reforesting plans which meet their needs. Specifically, native seedlings and agricultural crops will be interspersed in a way that is mutually beneficially for the farmers and for the environment.
The Serra do Brigadeiro mountains
The Serra do Brigadeiro State Park shelters the most important remnant of seasonal semi-deciduous Atlantic Forest in the state of Minas Gerais, it’s part of the UN Biosphere Reserve, and better still, it’s right on Iracambi’s doorstep! The park’s craggy mountains and deep ravines protect an extraordinary range of biodiversity, including the largest known population of Brachyteles hypoxanthus, the Wooly Spider or muriqui monkey.
The forests shelter a great variety of endangered animal and plant species, some of which are still unknown to science. The Park’s ecosystem is rich in plant species such as bromeliads, peroba, ipê, orchids, candeias, jequitibas, canjaranas and palms. The mists that cover the peaks and Alpine pastures for much of the year provide ideal conditions for creating an ecosystem rich in orquids, ferns, bromeliads, different varieties of grass, shrubs and cactus.
Among the variety of fauna in the State Park are puma, jaguaritica, wild pig, deer, wild dog, banded anteaters, squirrels, sloths, masked titi monkeys, and marmosets. Eleven separate groups of muriqui have been found in the area. A paradise for birders, its extensive list includes the dusky legged guan, the maroon bellied parakeet, the yellow bellied toucan and the bare-throated bellbird.
History of the park
The idea of creating a park in the Serra do Brigadeiro mountain range dates back to the 1980s. In the early 1990s a proposal was made to include all the land above 1000 m, covering an area of 33,000 ha. This met with considerable resistance from family farmers living in the region, and there began a process of debate as to the best way of preserving the forest without endangering the livelihoods of the smallholders.
As a result of these discussions the park boundaries were defined as the core conservation area of 13,000 ha, later extended to 15,000 ha. The mission of the park is to protect the natural heritage of the Atlantic Rainforest in the Serra do Brigadeiro, whilst facilitating scientific research, education and ecotourism, and contributing towards the development of communities in the area.
It’s a privilege for Iracambi to be located so close to the park, and we do all we can to support park staff in their efforts to care for the environment and win hearts and minds among the local community. For many years we have played an active role in the advisory board of the park, and we are committed to protect and expand the area of protected forest in which we are lucky enough to live.
The Atlantic Forest
One of the world’s top five biodiversity hotspots, the Atlantic Forest is a place of extraordinary beauty and a treasure house of biodiversity. Tragically, much of its immense variety of flora and fauna is severely endangered by habitat loss, and the Woolly Spíder Monkey, symbol of the forest, is the most severely threatened of all.
Different from the better known Amazon Forest, the Atlantic Forest, although also a rainforest with an average rainfall of 2000 mm pa, is not so hot as the Amazon, with average temperatures that vary from 14 – 21 C. This contributes to the enormous variety of plants and animals that the forest shelters.
The Atlantic Forest lies between the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Rio Grande do Sul stretching from the coast to the inland mountains.
The Atlantic Forest contains an even richer variety of habitat for flora and fauna than the Amazon Forest, with the world´s largest diversity of woody plants per hectare (458 species) found in the Atlantic Forest. While in the whole of North America approximately 810 bird species have been registered, the state of Minas Gerais – with an area slightly smaller than the state of Texas – contains 750 species. In the forests around Iracambi the list, still incomplete, has already reached 260 species.
An extraordinary number of species are endemic, being found nowhere else in the world. These include
- 80% of the primates
- 74% of the bromeliads
- 64% of the palm species
- 54% of the trees
- 40% of the mammals, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
This enormous biological richness is severely threatened. Figures published in 2003 by IBAMA, the Brazilian Environmental Protection Institute, show that a very high proportion of all endangered species in the country are found in the Atlantic Forest. Of Brazil’s 69 severely endangered mammals 38 come from the Atlantic Rainforest, as do 18 of the 160 endangered birds and 13 of the 20 endangered reptile species. There are 21 species and subspecies of monkeys found in the Atlantic Forest, of which 14 are endangered, 13 are endemic and some are on the verge of extinction. One of the largest populations of the Northern Muriqui, or Wooly Spider Monkey, (the largest and most endangered Neotropical primate) is found in the forests of the Serra do Brigadeiro near Iracambi.
We hear a lot about the destruction of the Amazon Forest but the fact is that the plight of the Atlantic Forest is far more critical. 20% of the Amazon Forest has gone, but 93% of the Atlantic Forest has vanished, together with the species that used to live there. The rate of deforestation continues to be highly alarming. In 1998 the Atlantic Forest was declared a national heritage. The government prohibited further forest clearing, but destruction continues.
This process of deforestation has left the Atlantic Forest in Minas Gerais severely fragmented. As you fly over the state, you’ll see a mosaic of forest patches, not the vast swathe of forest that you’d see in the Amazon. The 15,000 ha Serra do Brigadeiro State Park, in whose buffer zone we live, is one of the largest and most important surviving forest areas in the state.