TABLE 16–1 Countries of the World Containing the Largest Areas of Closed Tropical Foresta

Country

Areas of Closed Forest (hectares)

Brazil

357,480,000

Indonesia

113,895,000

Zaire

105,750,000

Peru

69,680,000

India

51,841,000

Colombia

46,400,000

Mexico

46,250,000

Bolivia

44,010,000

Papua New Guinea

34,230,000

Burma

31,941,000

Venezuela

31,870,000

Congo

21,340,000

Malaysia

20,995,000

Gabon

20,500,000

Guyana

18,475,000

Cameroon

17,920,000

Suriname

14,830,000

Ecuador

14,250,000

Madagascar

10,300,000

aFrom OTA, 1984, and Mittermeier and Oates, 1985.

richest, tallest, and most beautiful forest on Earth. In its primeval state, the Atlantic forest complex covered over 1 million square kilometers in 14 states or about 12% of Brazil, and its length from north to south extended a greater distance than the entire Atlantic seaboard of the United States from northern Maine to the Florida Keys. However, this region was the first part of Brazil to be colonized, it has developed into the agricultural and industrial center of the country, and it has within its borders two of the three largest cities in all of South America—Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, which is now one of the largest cities on Earth.

The result has been large-scale forest destruction, especially in the last two decades of rapid economic development, to obtain lumber and charcoal and to make way for plantations, cattle pasture, and industry—to the point that only 1 to 5% of the original forest remains in this region. As might be expected, the animals and plants native to the Atlantic forest are not doing very well under such circumstances. Many of these are endemic (including 40% of all the small, non-volant, i.e., nonflying, mammals, 54% of the trees, and 64% of the palms), and increasing numbers are being added to the endangered species list. The best example is probably the effect on the primates, 80% of which are endemic to the Atlantic forest. Twenty-one species and subspecies of monkeys are found in this region, and the studies that have been carried out with World Wildlife Fund support since 1979 indicate that fully 14 of these are endangered and that several are literally on the verge of extinction. Of these 14 endangered species, 13 are found nowhere else in the world (Mittermeier et al., 1986).



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