Reserve Allows Great Study of Brazil's Atlantic Rainforest

Brazil's Salto Morato Nature Preserve is a haven for scientists studying the dwindling Atlantic rainforest, an area less renowned than the Amazon forest but just as biologically diverse and equally threatened by human encroachment.

Boticario-funded scientists are literally having a field day as they conduct research in this 5,567-acre biodiversity paradise. Marcelo Silva, a biologist from the Pontifical University of Parana, studies the reproduction and pollination of the bromelia, an exotic plant characterized by flowers with a deeply cleft calyx.

"Bromelias reproduce either sexually or asexually and they provide the nectar that humming birds use to pollinate other plants. So they play a vital role," Amaral Ferreira told AFP. "Unfortunately, many people come here to pick them in an unsustainable and destructive way."

On the nature preserve, there are 324 different bird species – 200 of those species are only found in Brazil. The preserve also has 43 species of frogs, 55 of fish, 36 or reptiles, and 58 of mammals. Species that are most threatened by either hunting or loss of habitat include the ocelot, the white-lipped pecari, the armadillo, the puma, and the black-fronted piping-guan, a bird noted for its large red throat wattle and large white patch on the wing-coverts.

Amaral Ferreira said his staff of 10 is too small to monitor trails, conduct surveillance and deal with the 5,000-plus visitors, including campers that come each year. "I need at last four more people," he said.

Ferreira sees great potential for a growth in ecotourism at the site, but said this would require a major investment to upgrade access roads, increase surveillance and open more trails. The nature preserve, which runs educational programs in partnership with local schools and an environment police unit, has a visitors center, a research center, a training facility and a weather station.

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