Thursday, February 21, 2008

Caatinga Brazil

Caatinga Brazil

Caatinga BrazilCaatinga image courtesy:

Stock answers to quiz; that also is in Brazil, the Caatinga!

A quiz master asks 10 questions of the first 7 are in the following order the contestant would be a lucky one simply answer Brazil, Brazil seven times; the candidate scores 70% marks even the rest 3 are wrong!

1 Biggest of forests – Amazon Forest Brazil

2 Biggest of rivers – Amazon River Brazil

3 Biggest of Statues – Christ the Redeemer Rio Brazil,

4 Biggest of Swamps – Pantanal Brazil,

5 Biggest of Harbors - Rio Harbor Brazil,

6 Biggest of festivals – Rio Carnival Brazil,

7 Biggest of thorn forests - The Caatinga Thorn Forest, Brazil!

White desert

The word caatinga in the Tupi (an ancient trine in the region and their language) means white forest (kaa = forest + tinga = white). The reason for this name is that during summer the green color vanishes along with the fallen leaves and the whole area appears grayish white the color of the ground. The Caatinga scrub forest located in the northeastern part of Brazil lacks a well marked boundary with its neighboring areas; It is bounded by the Atlantic dry forests in the in its west, Cerrado Savannah in the southwest, and the long humid Atlantic Forests in its west coast.

A hetero-genus entity

The Caatinga is a vast ecological entity in the northeast part of Brazil with an area one million sq kms and that encompasses eight states of that big nation. It also has the status of being the largest scrub forest in the world with very rich biodiversity. For botanists it is a hetero-genus location as the flora fauna belong to different ecological entities. Its borders with Cerrado, Atlantic Forests, and Amazon have allowed considerable interchanges of the flora and fauna with these neighboring regions. The tall forests are mainly confined to four places they are Chapada do Aroripe, Serra do Ibiapaba, Serra de Baturite and Serra da Borborema.

Crystalline depression

Caatinga BrazilCaatinga brazil image courtesy:

Geographically speaking the Caatinga region are crystalline sedimentary depressions with broken continuity as isolated plateaus criss-cross to forma a vast mosaic. Piaui, Ceara, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe, Bahia and Minas Gerais are the eight states of Brazil that together share this vast thorn forest.

Only two seasons both hot!

Caatinga has only two seasons a dry, prolonged and hot winter followed by a short spell or rainy season that may last anywhere between 1 or 4 months; the strange thing with this rainy season is; it also is equally hot! The Caatinga is located at the northeastern part of Brazil it forms about 10% of the total area of Brazil. Caatinga receives only about 25 to 100 cm rainfall annually; a rainy season lasts between 1 to 4 months; even during rainy season it is not cool at Caatinga; but that makes the shrubs wear a green coat of fresh leaves, grass seeds sprout, the dried up river starts to flow and the whole area buzz with busy beings.

Smart plants

Caatinga BrazilCaatinga image courtesy:

The Caatinga is an endless sea of bare earth and thorny shrubs with small patches of forests with large trees here and there. These plants are well adapted to face the long and hard dry season. The plants here shed their entire leaves during hot season and stand naked to face the dry season; the lack of leaves reduce loss of water due to evaporation. With the shed leaves they look like dry and thorny twigs. These thorns and spines are actually reduced stems and leaves.

While grass varieties that live only during rainy season vanish altogether with the end of that season. They sprout, grow, produce flowers and disperse seeds during this short time and perish after the completion of their mission; leaving the space empty. Some of the plants let their modified roots protrude above the soil; these roots are capable to absorb moisture even from the arid air of Caatinga!

A life in 60 degree centigrade

During the peak of summer the ground soil of Caatinga reaches up to 60 degree centigrade yet plants like cacti (succulent stemmed plants with sharp spines) and horny bush plants survive; succulent plants have stems capable to store food and water enough to tide over the prolonged dry season; they alone look green in the sea of grey.

The spines on these cacti are actually their leaves that got reduced to spines for a dual purpose; they protect the plant as well reduce evaporation reducing surface area! (Thorns are modified stem, spines are modified leaves where as prickles are mere superficial structures)

Not 1, but 10 Caatingas!

Caatinga BrazilMap of caatinga brazil image courtesy:

The entire area of Caatinga is not a homogenous eco region as it is generally thought; there are islands of cool forests here and there; which the call Tall Caatinga. Scientists who do research on the geography and ecology of this region have identified about 10 geographically and climatically defined subgroups in Caatinga (with their flora and fauna varieng accordingly).

As per these scientists; these ten subgroups can be broadly arranged in six main groups. It starts from areas with less than one meter plants (shrubby Caatinga) with shallow sandy soils to tall forests with 25 to 30 meter high trees (Tall Caatinga Forests) with Eutrophic soils.

1000 endemic species!

Caatinga BrazilCaatinga image courtesy:

There are about 1200 species of vascular (developed plant varieties) plants in Caatinga making it a biologically rich location; about 30% of these are endemic (exclusive to the region). There are about 185 species of fish, 44 lizards, 49 amphibians, 47 snakes, 4 turtles and 3 species of crocodiles; altogether there are about 1000 species that are endemic.

It is the variety of the birds (avifauna) in this region that is most significant; they number about 350 species. Some of them like the Indigo Macaw and the Little-blue Macaw are the most threatened ones due to rampant catching and destruction of their habitats.

Adding insult to injury

Even Caatinga could not escape the axe of human beings especially the scattered humid areas, where water is available and large trees existed. Those trees are being cut for wood and the land being used for agriculture. The loss of these trees is detrimental to the rare and already endangered birds like macaws that are endemic to Caatinga. Adding insult to injury these birds are widely captured to be sold in the black market.

Looking the other way!

The role of the Brazilian government machinery does not seem to be active enough to stem the tide. Grazing of cattle and conversion of forest land to agriculture and even industrial purpose etc go on as usual. While the officials never realize the fact; once destroyed this delicate system can never be restored; however efforts put in to it.

90% lost!

Only one percent of the Caatinga biota is placed under protection thereby giving way to rampant commercial exploitation of the rest. It will be shocking to hear that 50% of the Caatinga is in the threat of human interference and 90% of these forest patches have already vanished before human axe, the process is still continuing.

A park with a task!

There is a national park entrusted with the upkeep of this bio system (Parque Nacional do Serra Capivera) which is one of the best managed one in Brazil; it is hoped that this institution act as a candle-light in the darkness that encircles the Caatinga Biota.

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