Today there is only 7% of the Atlantic Forest compared to the discovery of Brazil, 500 years ago. The Atlantic Forest used to take up 15% of our country’s vast territory, about 1,315,460 km². Today it is the most devasted biome of Brazil and one of the most endangered on the planet.
The Atlantic Forest is one of the richest ecosystems of the planet; it has named as one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. It has about 10 thousand species of endemic plants and has more diversity per hectare compared to many biomes. Unfortunately, over 60% of species threatened with extinction in Brazil live in the Atlantic Forest. Moreover, one out of four animals native to this region are endangered.
In Brazil, to this day, scientists continue to make important scientific discoveries. Despite its widespread exploitation, 70% of the Brazilian population depends on its natural resources: water springs, climate regulation, temperature, humidity, rainfall and soil fertility and prevention of erosion and earthslides. Atlantic Forest is a critical resource for the nation’s hydraulic resources, seven of the nine major river basins are contained by the Atlantic Forest.
The Ibitipoca State Park is located in southeastern Minas Gerais between the cities of Lima Duarte and Santa Rita do Ibitipoca. It covers 1,488 hectares of the Serra of Ibitipoca and its average altitude is 1,500 meters, the highest peak, Lombada, is 1784 meters above sea level. Its terrain is dominated by steep terrain and quartz rock that resulted in interesting heterogenous flora spread throughout the rocky fields and forest enclaves. The climate is a humid mesothermal with dry winters and mild summers. These unique natural features are one of the reasons why this is the most visited park in Minas Gerais.
Ibitipoca is located within the heart of the Atlantic Forest, but due to its unique topographical and geological characteristics, you can find distinctive landscapes: islands hidden in the mountain’s curves that contain rare and unique endemic species of flora and fauna. This is one of the reasons this region is so important. The environmental work of Reserva do Ibitipoca is one of prevention, protection, restoration and maintenance. There are endangered specis that need to be monitored. Our environmental management goals is to reconstitute the natural habitat through reforestation and reintroduction of native species.
The vegetative landscape of Ibitipoca is atypical because it is located in an area transitioning between different ecosystems. The Atlantic Forest already contains a huge variety of flowers and plants and the region still harbors ecosystems typical of the Cerrado, like High Altitude Fields and Rupestres fields. This plurality enriches the variety of species in the region, you can find gnarled trees, cacti, orchids, candeia and bromeliads. In the land of Reserva do Ibitipoca, you can find innumerous plant species, of which there are over 180 flowers, 400 lichens, 140 orchids, and 60 bromeliads.
Historically a substantial part of this original vegetation was removed and used as pasture. Hopefully, an abandoned pasture will quickly sprout pioneer species and overtime become more biodiverse. Alongside natural regeneration, we plant native species in degraded lands to combat the invasive exotic grasses, like brachiária. This grass will dominate the area and aggressively prevents the growth of native species. Some areas are turned into ecological cooridors to connect isolated forest fragments so that the fauna can freely move. The species we commonly plant are ipe, the ceiba, cedar, the quaresmeira, the Sapucaia, the manacá saw, jacaranda and Araucaria.
The loss of habitat and systematic hunting has caused the extinction of a variety of species. People would hunt for game and as a way to protect their crops and livestock. Hunting was banned throughout Brazil in the 1988 Constitution and constant vigiliance against poachers has resulted in the gradual return of animals like deer, boar, capivara, jaguar, and ocelot.
Reserva do Ibitipoca is home to a wide array of species. The biologist Elisa Girardi installed camera traps throughout the property and identified 33 species of mammals (almost twice than what was previously known). There are over 350 species of birds, 41 amphibians and many fish, including the endangered pirapitinga, a red-tailed fish, that spawns in our waters. However, in September and October, the fish becomes easy prey for poachers waiting by the waterfalls. Reserva do Ibitipoca raises awareness of the importance of respecting the species’s spawning cycle and the negative impact of casting nets as the fish struggle to climb up the river’s waterfalls.
In 2002, a population of monkeys of the species Northern Muriqui was found in the Luna Forest. Muriqui is from the Tupi-Guarani indengious language and means “peaceful people.” This is the largest primate of the Americas, and critically endangered according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). There are less than 500 individuals of this species in Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo. The Luna Forest was illegally being harvested for lumber until its purchase by the reserve. Through a partnership with the Federal University of Viçosa, represented by Professor Fabiano Melo, President of the Brazilian Society of Primatology, biologists and researchers have studied and are actively monitoring the group.
The Reserve Ibitipoca also has explored partnerships with the Environmental CRAX, of Belo Horizonte, for the reintroduction of jacutinga, the curassow, the macuco and the harpy eagle (harpy eagle). Additionally, the Reserve is partnering with IEF (State Forestry Institute) to become a sanctuary for injured or illegally transported animals.
The white sands of Reserva do Ibitipoca’s region resemble beach dunes, and rightly so! Over 600 million years ago, this area was the bottom of the sea and slowly raised up as the Mantiqueira mountain range. It is the largest outcrop of quartzite in the world. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock, which underwent changes due to high pressure and / or temperature. This mineral is formed by quartz, the most abundant mineral on Earth. Due to its permeability to water, quartize slowly eroded away to reveal the canyons and caves scattered throughout Ibitipoca. It also contribute’s to the region’s Coca-Cola water, the stone allows organic materials to travel through the subsoil. Another interesting fact is that the rock is a good conductor of electricity, and contributes to the high frequency of lightning strikes, making Ibitipoca one of the most electric places on the planet.
The region’s waterfalls are formed by the waters of the River Salto and Hawk stream. The water is tinted red and the waterfalls form large falls and pools. Reserva do Ibitipoca has several waterfalls. Amongst them are: