Saturday, 23 January 2010

FOTMAR goes South (1)

Head south from Sao Paulo and you encounter the states of Santa Catarina and Parana, and their two largest cities, Joinville and Curitiba. There is only the state of Rio Grande de Sul before you reach Argentina, and this part of the country is different in climate and culture from the rest of Brazil. For a start, it's cooler, with more pronounced seasons - daytime temperatures in Joinville vary from 23 to 30 through the year, whilst Curitba, which is on a high plateau, has an average day time temperature of 18 in June and July and even snow roughly every ten years.

These lower temperatures encouraged immigration from countries such as Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, as well as Italy, and they produced two of the most prosperous regions in Latin America, and a cultural influence that is still felt today. In the early days of independent Brazil this led to a certain feeling of separateness, and an attempt at independence aided by the famous Giuseppe Garibaldi. Garibaldi failed, but he did pick up a Catarinense wife, Ana da Silva, who would fight with him through his Italian adventures until dying in the aftermath of the French conquest of Rome in 1849.

Lower temperatures of course effect both the flora and fauna of the Mata Atlantica. Here, in the higher regions, there are mixed broadleaf and coniferous forests, and the animal life is a mixture of Brazil-wide species and those that prefer a cooler climate.

Red necked tanager (Tangara cyanocephala)

A striking, and common, garden bird in the south of Brazil. A fruit eater, but they will try for the sugar feeders put out for humming birds. Unfortunately, in contesting this resource they are usually defeated, as humming birds are well armed with sword like bills.

Sayaca tanager (Thraupis sayaca)

The Sayaca tanager is found throughout much of Brazil, but especially in the south. A common garden bird who will eat pretty much anything available fruit, flowers , nectar or insects. Due to their high numbers and lack of clear preference for any particular fruit type, they are one of the most important seed dispersers in human disturbed areas.

And of course, the ubiquitous Bem te vi (
Pitangus sulphuratus ), which I covered in an earlier blog.

Birds are usually described as tolerant or intolerant of human presence. The Btv redefines "intolerance", as can be seen from this video recently shown on the Global news network.


Tree of the day

The Parana pine

If there is one tree that is characteristic of this region it is the Parana Pine (Araucaria angustifolia), so much so that it is incorporated in the coats of arms of Curitiba and the university city of Sao Carlos (in Sao Paulo state). Not only is it common (though much less so than in previous centuries) it is highly distinctive being up to 40m tall with a "chandelier" structure.

The trees are dioecious, with male and female trees both producing cones, and pollination relying on the wind. The female cones produce seeds about 5cm long which are an important food source for many animals, and indeed humans. There is an annual fair in the town of Lages (Santa Catarina state), with boiled pine nuts and hot wine. Of course, this is not actually in the tree's interest, but it is reckoned that about 4% of seeds taken away by small mammals and buried do survive, thus dispersing the pine.

Unfortunately (from the point of view of the pine) it's wood makes excellent timber for construction, and it's resin makes a good varnish to protect against inclement weather. So when mass immigration to the countryside started huge numbers of trees were cut down. It is now holding it's own however, not least because of it's symbolic importance, and there are plenty of examples being planted in urban areas and gardens.


Steven said...

Nice post, it gives one a real feel for the country. Not being much of a naturalist things like this need to be pointed out to me as I would never notice them alone.

Except for the Bem-te-vi! At first I thought one was following me around Brazil. Everywhere I go the bird follows and wakes me at dawn :(

sann2282 said...

Perhaps nations, states/provinces, and cities should increase their national/state flora and fauna from the usual 1 to 3, ensuring that these chosen ones are in the rare and endangered categories(or facing great risks)!