Still well conserved, about 50% of the area is covered by pristine forest of utmost importance. The rest of the area is a mosaic of forests in different stages of succession, with large secondary forests in advanced stages of recovery, interspersed with cabrucas and small pastures.
The forests of Serra Bonita protect numerous springs that supply clean water to the populations of Camacan and Pau Brasil. Southern Bahia is a priority area for conservation in the Central Biodiversity Corridor of the Atlantic Forest; it contains some of the highest rates of endemism in the world. Numerous species are endangered and in need of urgent protection. In the 1990s, the New York Botanical Garden identified a record of 458 tree species in a single hectare of forest (an area the size of a football field) in this region.
LOCATION AND HOW TO GET TO THE SBR
The Serra Bonita Reserve is in the municipality of Camacan, in the cacao region of Southern Bahia, 80 km from Itabuna, 135 km from Ilhéus and 235 km from Porto Seguro. The access branch to the Reserve is 10 km from Camacan, on the road to Jacareci; taking a left at the sign written Reserva Serra Bonita, another 6 km up the road to the towers. See the map on the right (click to enlarge).
It is important to note that from Camacan, transportation to the Reserve must be done by 4WD vehicles, since other kinds of vehicles typically do not support the ride up the mountain, may become severely damaged and subject to towing.
WEATHER AND TRAITS
Serra Bonita has a unique habitat with significant altitude gradients of native Atlantic Forest (200m to 950m above sea level). Sharp variations in humidity and temperature are found in vegetation, which switches from a wood of evergreen to semi-deciduous humid forest at lower elevations.
The predominant weather at Serra Bonita is wet and rainy most of the year, with a dry season and occasional rain between October and March.
Temperatures range between 10 and 32 degrees Celsius, according to the altitude and time of year (colder in
June, warmer in December).
THREATS AND CONSERVATION
The subterritory of Camacan includes the municipalities of Jussari, Arataca, Camacan, Pau Brasil, Mascote and Santa Luzia, and has a population of about 94,500, of which 68% live in rural areas. The economic base of the region is agriculture, for many years dominated by cocoa production, under a system called "cabruca" where cocoa trees are planted under the canopy of the original forest. Thus, this crop has less impact on biodiversity and although clearing the land for cocoa plantations eliminates much of the lower vegetation, it spares large trees like the jequitibá, the mahogany, rosewood and Brazil wood, now endangered. These species have survived, in the cocoa region.
The Serra Bonita Reserve, in this context, is an essential contribution to the preservation of the Atlantic Forest, through the full protection of one of the last remnants of moist submontane forest in the Atlantic Forest´s Central Biodiversity Corridor, and its endangered, rare and endemic species.
During the height of the cocoa trade, South Bahia was a major global producer of this fruit. However, in the 1980s, a sharp price fall in the international market and the appearance of the witch's broom disease, which devastated cacao plantations, led to a severe economic crisis throughout the region.
This resulted in a sharp increase in poverty due to mass unemployment, caused by the economic recession, which in turn caused a severe impact on the region's biodiversity. Hunting, trafficking of endangered species of flora and fauna, the replacement of vast areas of cabruca for more intensive cocoa plantations, the introduction of exotic species and other threats increased.
The crisis finally led to the expansion of illegal logging and significant acceleration in deforestation, with the replacement of cocoa by other land uses such as shaded coffee, pasture and, more recently,