An introduction to Chapters 1 and 2

Dear reader,

I have prepared a series of presentations covering the Cadeia do Espinhaço, an important complex of mountains in Eastern Brazil – which shelters several biomes of formidable biodiversity – with one main objective: that the information presented could somehow contribute to save what is left of these ecosystems and, hopefully, to help preserve others also, here and abroad. For this effect, the language used is plain English, but we´ve also added links to Wikipedia for the few technical terms employed. It is important that you fully understand the importance of preserving our natural resources. We can´t go on destroying what we are unable to create!

This first presentation covers the mountains of Serra do Cipó (which Roberto Burle Marx , back in the 50s, refered to as “the garden of Brazil”) and Diamantina, located in the state of Minas Gerais, a sanctuary for many endangered species of the fauna and flora and where vegetation is a mosaic of transition areas (ecotonal) such as:

– Campos Rupestres: open-rock pioneer vegetation and rock-dwelling plants;

– Cerrado: a tropical grassland containing scattered trees and drought-resistant undergrowth; biologically the richest savannah in the world. Only about 20% of the original Cerrado is left in Brazil, and of that, only about 3% is protected;

– Mata Atlântica: Atlantic moist forest. See also … Bromeliad Habitats: Mata Atlântica;

– Caatinga: covers more than 10% of Brazil’s territory and consists primarily of small, thorny trees that shed their leaves seasonally. Many annual plants grow, flower, and die during the brief rainy season.

The National Park of Serra do Cipó alone is an amazing example of biodiversity and endemism that should be conserved and protected: a study has shown that 200 km² of this ecosystem show the extraordinary number of 1590 species (A.Giulietti et al. 1987) of which 36 are Bromeliads and 80 Orchidaceae. It is the park with the greatest number of plants per square meter on the planet. It has more species than England with its 1500 species!

Famous scientists have visited the Serra do Cipó through the centuries, such as French botanist and traveler Augustin de Saint-Hilaire (1799-1853), Germam botanist and explorer Carl Friedrich Phillip von Martius (April 17, 1794 – December 13, 1868, Munich), Scottish botanist George Gardner (1812-1849) and others.

For your convenience, this presentation was divided in two chapters, totaling 230 photos covering a range of subjects such as colonial architecture, handicraft, landscapes and an exuberant flora:

Chapter 1 – The Estrada Real or Royal Route is probably the oldest Road in the Americas. It was built by slaves in 1697 for the transport of gold, diamonds and other precious minerals – from the mines of Minas Gerais to the port of Paraty in Rio de Janeiro – when Brazil was a Portuguese colony;

Chapter 2 – The Flora and Fauna of the Serra do Cipó and Diamantina.

This presentation is best viewed in 1480×1020 pixels or larger.

Note: I would like to thank Elton Leme, Marlon Machado and Rafael Louzada for their assistance in the identification of the species; Glenn Cheney, author of “Journey on the Estrada Real”; Derek Butcher and Michael Andreas for their usual support and incentive.

Oscar Ribeiro – Rio, September 2008

More information: Cadeia do Espinhaço – Data sheet by Dra. Ana Maria Giulietti, Dr José R. Pirani and Dr Raymond M. Harley