Floresta da Tijuca
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
tel: +55 21 492 2253 / +55 21 492 5002
Parque Nacional de Tijuca is the largest area of urban rainforest in the world, and is testament to the huge success of a reforestation scheme from the Brazilian government. When the Portuguese arrived, the area which is now the city of Rio was covered by dense green tropical forest. As the city grew the trees were felled and the timber used in construction or for charcoal. However, if you look up from the streets of Zona Sul today, the mountains running southwest from the Corcovado are still covered with exuberant forest, the periphery of the Parque Nacional da Tijuca which covers an area of approximately 120 square kilometres, and is maintained by Brazil's State Institute of Forestry (IBDF). In the seventeenth century the forests of Tijuca were cut down for their valuable hardwood and the trees replaced by sugar cane and, later, coffee plantations and small-scale agriculture. In the early nineteenth century the city authorities became alarmed by a shortage of pure water and by landslides from the Tijuca slopes. Eventually it was decided that a concerted effort was needed to restore Rio's watershed and, in 1857, a reforestation project was initiated: by 1870 over 100,000 trees had been planted and the forest was reborn. Most of the seeds and cuttings that were planted were native to the region, and today the park serves as a remarkable example of the potential for the regeneration of the Atlantic forest.