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Mata Atlântica: CPD Site SA16

South-eastern Brazil

Location:  Western part of Atlantic Upland between São Paulo and Campinas in eastern São Paulo State, about latitudes 23°12'-23°22'S and longitudes 46°57'-47°05'W.
c. 354 km².
c. 800-1300 m.
Semi-deciduous forest, semi-deciduous altitudinal forest, rocky outcrop vegetation.
Regionally high diversity; threatened species.
Useful plants: 
Reserve for timber trees; many species used for medicinals and handicrafts, some as ornamentals and for food.
Other values: 
Refuge for fauna; watershed protection for drinking water; potential genetic resources; scientific research; environmental education; tourist attraction.
Population growth, industrial development, air pollution, logging, fire, mining, increasing tourist pressure.
c. 191 km² considered "historical patrimony" by government agency; municipal reserve Jundiaí; Environmental Protection Zone (APA); in Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve.

Map 52: CPD Site SA16


The Serra do Japi (Map 52) includes portions of the municipalities Jundiaí, Itupeva, Cabreúva, Pirapora do Bom Jesus and Cajamar. The region is drained mainly by the Tietê River, which flows to the north-west, and its tributaries especially the Jundiaí River.

This mountain range is a quartzitic formation, originated from a Precambrian geosyncline (Ab'Sáber 1992). The soils are classified as red-yellow latosols (oxisol group). On the abrupt hillsides and flattened hilltops is shallow dystrophic soil, which is acidic and poor in nutrients, and outcrops of quartzitic rock or flint stones; at the base of the mountains is deep eutrophic soil, which is less acidic and rather rich in nutrients (Morellato 1992b; Rodrigues and Shepherd 1992).

Average annual precipitation in the region varies from 1907 mm at Cajamar to 1500 mm north-east and 1367 mm north-west of Jundiaí. The mean annual temperatures range between 19.2°C at the base of the range and 15.7°C on the hillsides (Pinto 1992).

There is a dry cool season (winter) from April to September, with mean monthly rainfall generally below 80 mm, and a wet warm season (summer) from October to March, with monthly rainfall above 100 mm. This bimodal rainfall is typical of the Atlantic Upland where semi-deciduous forest occurs. The rains concentrate mainly in the first months of summer (October-January), occasioned by the Atlantic Polar Front. The warmest month is January (mean temperatures 18.4°-22.2°C), the coolest month July (11.8°-15.3°C) (Pinto 1992).

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The Serra do Japi is located between the two most expressive vegetation types of south-eastern Brazil (both within the Atlantic Domain): (1) the variously called semi-deciduous forest or upland forest (Leitão Filho 1987), tropical seasonal forest (Longman and Jenik 1987) or subtropical moist forest (Holdridge 1947), which occurs at elevations of 600 m or higher; and (2) the Atlantic tropical moist forest or Atlantic forest sensu stricto, extending from lowlands along the Atlantic coast to the Serra do Mar (see CPD Site SA15) and Serra de Paranapiacaba (Joly, Leitão Filho and Santos 1992).

The semi-deciduous forest presents different physiognomies, which are related to changes in soil, altitude and climate along its extensive distribution in the states of Paraná, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Goiás, and is bounded by the Pantanal and Cerrado domains.

Along the base of the Serra do Japi are extensive areas of secondary forest disturbed by fire, logging, mining or agriculture. Successional species are common, such as Trema micrantha, Acacia polyphylla, Cecropia pachystachya, C. glazioui, Piptadenia gonoacantha, Solanum swartzianum, Aegiphila sellowiana and Celtis iguanae. The Serra do Japi topography and soil are inadequate for agriculture, which has preserved the upland to the present with the major area of continuous relatively undisturbed semi-deciduous forest in south-eastern Brazil. Three vegetation types are recognized (Rodrigues et al. 1989; Leitão Filho 1992):

1. Semi-deciduous forest (upland forest) dominates the landscape, mostly between 700-900 m. The forest is markedly seasonal, with the most leaf fall occurring during the dry season and c. 40% of the tree species deciduous (Morellato et al. 1989; Morellato and Leitão Filho 1992). The canopy is composed of trees 20-25 m tall, mostly species of Myrtaceae, Lauraceae, Meliaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, Mimosaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Fabaceae. Some families such as Anacardiaceae and Myrsinaceae are represented by few species but many individuals. The typical emergent trees include Cariniana estrellensis and Cedrela fissilis. The lowest tree stratum is discontinuous, dominated by Rubiaceae, Myrtaceae and Meliaceae. The shrub and herbaceous strata are dense and characterized by shade-tolerant species of Piperaceae, Araceae and Violaceae.

2. Semi-deciduous altitudinal forest occurs generally up to 1000 m. It has a closed canopy 8-10 m high with some emergent trees up to 15 m tall, such as Vernonia diffusa, Aspidosperma olivaceum and Prunus sellowii. There is no conspicuous lower tree stratum. The most common tree families are Anacardiaceae, Clethraceae, Compositae, Cunoniaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Fabaceae sensu stricto, Myrtaceae and Vochysiaceae. The shrub and herbaceous strata have scattered plants.

The flowering peak of the canopy trees occurs in the altitudinal forest (on the hilltops) at the onset of first rains (September-October), and then in the semi-deciduous (upland) forest in November (Morellato et al. 1989).

3. Rocky outcrop vegetation. Outcrops of rock occur sporadically in the Serra do Japi. Their vegetation is typical of semi-arid zones and stone fields, dominated by Cactaceae, Bromeliaceae, Cyperaceae, Eriocaulaceae and Piperaceae, and some shrubs of Celastraceae, Compositae, Ericaceae, Melastomataceae and Myrtaceae. This vegetation is probably a relict of the vegetation occurring in the region during semi-arid periods of the Quaternary (Ab'Sáber 1992).

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The flora of the entire Serra do Japi region is poorly known. Floristic studies have investigated only tree species on the western side of the range (Rodrigues et al. 1989; Rodrigues and Shepherd 1992). According to Leitão Filho (1992), 303 tree species belonging to 176 genera of 63 families are known, so far, in the Serra do Japi. They represent 86% of the families, 70.9% of the genera and 45.6% of the tree species known from the entire semi-deciduous forest. The diversity of the range's flora must be even higher since the data are restricted to the trees and the sites studied, which demonstrates the importance for conservation of the region. A great number of lianas, shrubs and herbaceous species occur, whereas epiphytes are less diverse and abundant than in the Atlantic forest sensu stricto.

The number of tree species characteristic of the Atlantic forest that occur at Serra do Japi is low. The Atlantic moist forest has the greatest species diversity and more endemics. Nonetheless, there is a decreasing gradient of tree-species diversity from the semi-deciduous forests of Serra do Japi to the interior of São Paulo, revealing that this region is more diverse than other semi-deciduous forests.

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Useful plants

The vegetation of the Serra do Japi has traditionally offered various products important to local populations: fine hardwoods from timber trees (species of Cedrela, Aspidosperma, Balfourodendron, Cariniana, Machaerium); other wood (Metrodorea, Callisthene, Guarea, Miconia); fruit trees (species of Eugenia, Psidium, Campomanesia, Diclidanthera, Rheedia); ornamentals (e.g. Tabebuia chrysotricha, Tibouchina sellowiana, Lithrea moleoides); and other species for handicrafts. Medicinal plants are particularly important to rural populations from the region of Serra do Japi, and a great number of medicinals are found in its rich flora.

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Social and environmental values

Because of its importance, the natural history of the Serra do Japi is the subject of a comprehensive book (Morellato 1992a) which describes the environment, flora and fauna, and the status of conservation for this mountain range. The region has high animal diversity, and is a refuge for several threatened animals, e.g. the titi monkey (Callicebus personatus) ("sauá"), and the black hawk-eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus) and king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) (Morellato 1992a). The mountain range is a watershed for drinking water, an important reserve for in situ genetic conservation and has been used for environmental education.

The Serra do Japi region has high landscape diversity and scenic quality and could provide the basis for development of a planned tourist industry, which could benefit the regional economy.

Economic assessment

Ecological tourism may be one (perhaps the main) important economic asset of the region. The Serra do Japi has excellent potential for tourism, being close to population centres (40 km from São Paulo, 50 km from Campinas), easily accessible by two important state roads and with a beautiful landscape. Forest management, with the sustained production of seeds, seedlings, timber, ornamentals and medicinal plants, could bring other economic assets.

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During the 1970s and 1980s, the main significant impacts on Serra do Japi were mining, logging, deforestation and fire; in the late 1980s, tourist pressure increased.

Most of the region's population resides in the municipality Jundiaí. During the 1990s it is projected that the Jundiaí area will experience the most rapid population growth and industrial development in the State of São Paulo. The major threats to the plant resources will be more urbanization, industrialization, air pollution, deforestation and tourist pressure. Nevertheless, a regional development plan for the Jundiaí area could reduce forest degradation and might prevent total forest destruction.

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Efforts to preserve the Serra do Japi, the largest and best preserved area of semi-deciduous forest within the State of São Paulo, were initiated in the 1970s; in 1983 c. 191 km² were declared an area of "historical patrimony" by the Conselho de Defesa do Patrimônio Histórico, Artístico, Arquitetônico e Turístico (CONDEPHAAT) (see Map 52 - recommended protection zone 3). This state government agency regulates development activities at Serra do Japi such as land use, tourism, mining and utilization of any natural resource, but does not exclude the land owners. By 1984 part of the Serra do Japi and the urban area of Jundiaí and Cabreúva municipalities (see area within protection zones 1-3) were considered an Environmental Protection Zone (Area de Proteção Ambiental - APA). A small municipal reserve (Jundiaí) was established at the end of 1992. In 1993 the Serra do Japi was included in an Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO-MAB Programme.

Unfortunately these acts of legislation are not effective enough to ensure the region's conservation (Joly 1992). An official plan is urgently needed to protect the Serra do Japi. All the land above 800 m within protection zone 3 (see Map 52) needs to be decreed a park or reserve; recommended protection zone 2 needs to be declared a transition area of restricted activities including ecotourism, education, forest management and sustained-yield timber production; and recommended protection zone 1 should be used as a buffer zone for controlled activities, such as tourism, fruit growing and sustainable agriculture. Inclusion of the Serra do Japi in the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve may help to bring about such changes.

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Map 52. Serra do Japi, South-eastern Brazil (CPD Site SA16)


Ab'Sáber, A.N. (1992). A Serra do Japi, sua origem geomorfológica e a teoria dos refúgios. In Morellato, L.P.C. (ed.), História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Unicamp/Fapesp [Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo], Campinas. Pp. 12-23.

Holdridge, L.R. (1947). Determination of world plant formations from simple climatic data. Science 105: 367-368.

Joly, C.A. (1992). A preservação da Serra do Japi. In Morellato, L.P.C. (ed.), História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Unicamp/Fapesp, Campinas. Pp. 310-321.

Joly, C.A., Leitão Filho, H.F. and Santos, S.M. (1992). O patrimônio florístico. In Camara, I.G. (ed.), Mata Atlântica. Fundação SOS Mata Atlântica, Editora Index, São Paulo. Pp. 96-128.

Leitão Filho, H.F. (1987). Considerações sobre a composição florística das matas brasileiras. Bol. Inst. Pesquisas Florestais 12: 21-32.

Leitão-Filho, H.F. (1992). A flora arbórea da Serra do Japi. In Morellato, L.P.C. (ed.), História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Unicamp/Fapesp, Campinas. Pp. 40-62.

Longman, K.A. and Jenik, J. (1987). Tropical forest and its environment. Longman Singapore Publishers, Singapore. 347 pp.

Morellato, L.P.C. (ed.) (1992a). História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Unicamp/Fapesp, Campinas. 321 pp.

Morellato, L.P.C. (1992b). Nutrient cycling in two southeastern Brazilian forests. I. Litterfall and litter standing crop. Journal Trop. Ecol. 8: 202-215.

Morellato, L.P.C. and Leitão Filho, H.F. (1992). Padrões de frutificaço e disperso na Serra do Japi. In Morellato, L.P.C. (ed.), História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Unicamp/Fapesp, Campinas. Pp. 112-140.

Morellato, L.P.C., Rodrigues, R.R., Leitão Filho, H.F. and Joly, C.A. (1989). Estudo fenológico comparativo de espécies arbóreas de floresta de altitude e floresta mesófila semidecídua na Serra do Japi, Jundiaí, SP. Revista Brasil. Botânica 12: 85-98.

Pinto, H.S. (1992). O clima da Serra do Japi. In Morellato, L.P.C. (ed.), História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Unicamp/Fapesp, Campinas. Pp. 30-38.

Rodrigues, R.R., Morellato, L.P.C., Joly, C.A. and Leitão Filho, H.F. (1989). Estudo florístico e fitossociológico em um gradiende altitudinal de mata estacional mesófila semidecídua na Serra do Japi, Jundiaí, SP. Revista Brasil. Botânica 12: 71-84.

Rodrigues, R.R. and Shepherd, G.J. (1992). Análise da variação estrutural e fisionômica da vegetação e das características edáficas, num gradiente altitudinal, na Serra do Japi. In Morellato, L.P.C. (ed.), História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Unicamp/Fapesp, Campinas. Pp. 64-96.


This Data Sheet was written by Dr Hermógenes F. Leitão Filho [Departamento de Botânica IB, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Caixa Postal 6109, 13081 Campinas, SP, Brazil] and Dra. L. Patrícia C. Morellato [CNPq/Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de Biociências de Rio Claro, Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), Caixa Postal 199, 13506-900 Rio Claro, SP, Brazil].

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