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Credit: Tim Hirsch
It's the most threatened rainforest in Brazil, a global biodiversity hotspot, and contains around one in 12 of all species on the planet. We must be talking about the Amazon, right? Wrong. It's the Atlantic Forest, which used to run in a continuous strip along the 2,000 miles of Brazil's eastern seaboard, up the steep coastal mountain slopes and, in places, far into the interior, reaching parts of Paraguay and northern Argentina.
This stunning image, with morning sunlight streaming through the canopy, gives a sense of the forest's magic and exuberance. In one part of the ecosystem, some 450 species of trees were once found in a single hectare (2.5 acres). Whereas the Amazon has lost around 18 percent of its original extent, barely seven percent of the Atlantic Forest remains, at least in remnants large enough to be considered viable (100 hectares or more).
This state park in the Upper Ribeira Valley, in one of the largest intact patches of the forest, is just half a day's drive from the megacity of São Paulo and that helps explain why there is so little left. The Amazon is thousands of miles from where most Brazilians live, but the Atlantic Forest has been right in the path of agricultural and urban development for 500 years, and now 130 million people live within its boundaries. Finally, its treasures are starting to be valued.