Brazil's Mata do Passarinho

‘Songbird Forest’ expands to save species

Brazil’s Mata do Passarinho — an oasis for rare birds, including one species with just 15 survivors left — is now 50 percent larger.

Russell McLendon

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The banded cotinga is one of several endangered songbirds expected to benefit from broader protection. (Photo: Ciro Albano)

Brazil’s Atlantic Forest may be dwarfed by the much larger Amazon, but it’s still surprisingly biodiverse for its size. It once spanned three times the size of California, until humans cleared about 85 percent of it over the past 500 years. Species that evolved with plenty of space are now trapped in shrinking fragments of forest.

Miraculously, these fragments still hold 2,200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, representing 5 percent of all vertebrates on Earth. That includes nearly 200 bird species and 21 primates that exist nowhere else, yet despite such unique biological wealth, only about 2 percent of the Atlantic Forest is under protection. Read more.