Biodiversity and Climate Change in Mata Atlântica

The Atlantic forest Mata Atlântica in Brazil is home to 120 million Brazilians and the heart of the country's economy. Despite considerable degradation from growing settlements and economic development, the Mata Atlântica is one of the five most important biodiversity hotspots in the world. As such, the Atlantic forest in the federal state of Rio de Janeiro is a central showcase for the complex interrelations between social activities, biodiversity and climate change. 

On the one hand, climate change poses a direct threat to the Atlantic forest’s biodiversity. Climate change scenarios predict an increase in extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfalls in the state of Rio de Janeiro. First signs of changes in the flora and fauna due to climate change are already visible in the Mata Atlântica. For this reason, the impacts of climate change on biodiversity are currently being studied in the context of a monitoring project in the Serra dos Órgãos National Park.

On the other hand, the Atlantic forest provides a multitude of ecosystem services, which not only benefit Brazilian society but also contribute to global protection against climate change by acting as a carbon sink of global importance.  The extreme weather conditions of January 2011 in the mountainous region around the Serra dos Órgãos National Park demonstrated the vital importance of protected areas and intact ecosystems for the prevention of natural disasters. Beyond this, with the occurrence of climate change, the direct dependence of the local population on the Mata Atlântica is especially apparent with regard to other ecosystem services such as the provision of drinking water, water supply for industry and agriculture, and the supply of biodiversity products (i.e. timber, oils).