Serra do Mar

Serra do Mar

[se-rah doo mahr]
Serra do Mar (Portuguese for Mountain Range of the Sea) is a 1,500 km long system of mountain ranges and escarpments in Southeastern Brazil, which runs in parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coast, from the state of Espírito Santo to Santa Catarina. The main escarpment forms the boundary between the sea-level littoral and the inland plateau (planalto), which has a mean altitude of 500 to 1300 m. The mountain ranges are discontinuous in several places and receive individual names, such as Serra de Bocaina, Serra de Paranapiacaba, Serra Negra, Serra dos Órgãos, etc. It also extends to some large islands near the coastline, such as Ilhabela and Ilha Grande. The highest point of Serra do Mar is the Pico das Salinas, located in the Parque Estadual dos Três Picos in the state of Rio de Janeiro in a municipality of Nova Friburgo, with a height of 2,316 m.

Geologically, the Serra do Mar belongs to the massive crystalline rock platform that forms Eastern South America and tectonically is very stable. Most of the elevations of Serra do Mar were formed about 60 million years ago.

At the time of discovery of Brazil (1500), Serra do Mar supported a rich and highly diversified ecosystem, composed mainly by a lush tropical rain forest, called Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Rainforest). Due to urbanization and deforestation, however, most of the forest cover was destroyed and it remains almost exclusively in the steep escarpments facing the sea. A chain of national and state parks, ecological stations and biological reservations now protect the Mata Atlântica and its biological heritage, but acid rain, pollution, poachers, clandestine loggers, forest fires and encroachment by urban areas and farms are still promoting active destruction, particularly around cities. The largest metropolis of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Vitória are near the Serra do Mar.

Reforestation and recuperation of biological diversity are notoriously difficult to bring about in destroyed rain forest habitats, but Rio de Janeiro boasts of such success in the Mata Atlântica in its city parks.

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