Brazil has 74 national parks as of July 2019, which are areas of integral nature conservation as defined by the law of the National System of Units of Nature Conservation. These national parks of Brazil are managed by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), a special autonomous entity linked to the Ministry of the Environment established in 2007. The main purpose of these parks is to protect the natural ecosystems that are important from an ecological and aesthetic point of view, while also allowing for scientific research, environmental education, outdoor recreation, and ecotourism.
Establishment of the First National Parks
The country’s first national park, Itatiaia National Park in Rio de Janeiro, was established by Decree No. 1713 issued on June 14, 1937, by Getúlio Vargas, based on the Itatiaia Biological Station. After the establishment of this park, the Iguaçu National Park in Paraná was created in 1939, and the Sierra de los Órganos National Park, also in Rio de Janeiro, in November of the same year. The number of national parks in Brazil has grown considerably in the last two decades, increasing from 33 parks in 1990 to 67 in 2010. The size of these parks varies greatly: the smallest is the Tijuca, with less than 40 km², while the largest is the Tumucumaque Mountains, with more than 38,000 km².
- 1 Establishment of the First National Parks
- 2 Challenges in the Protection of Brazilian Biomes
- 3 Access to National Parks, Protected Areas, and Biosphere Reserves
- 4 National Parks with the Most Visits
- 5 List of National Parks in Brazil
Challenges in the Protection of Brazilian Biomes
All of Brazil’s biomes are represented in its national parks: 24 in the Atlantic Forest, 20 in the Amazon, 15 in the Cerrado, 8 in the Caatinga, 3 in the marine biome, and 1 each in the Pampa and the Pantanal Matogrossense. This uneven distribution indicates that some biomes are inadequately protected. Furthermore, many parks, especially in the Amazon, lack infrastructure for visits and supervision, making them vulnerable to deforestation, poaching, and mining. There are land ownership issues with some parks, especially those created in the last decade, which hinder their implementation. Although the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest have the highest number of parks, they only protect 5% and 1% of the vegetation, respectively.
Access to National Parks, Protected Areas, and Biosphere Reserves
Visits are only allowed to parks that have a management and public use plan. In 2011, only 26 parks were officially open to the public and provided data on the number of visitors. Of these, Iguaçu and Tijuca were the most visited, with around 71% of visits to Brazilian parks. Other parks received visitors, but without any control, rules, or planning. The Araguaia National Park and Pico de la Neblina are closed due to legal issues related to conflicts with indigenous lands.
National Parks with the Most Visits
The Tijuca National Park is located in the city of Rio de Janeiro and is the most visited national park in Brazil. It boasts a vast array of flora and fauna species and is also known for housing the famous Christ the Redeemer monument. The second most visited park is Iguaçu, located in the state of Paraná. This park is famous for the Iguaçu Falls, which are one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world. These two national parks, according to available data in 2011, account for approximately 71% of visits to Brazilian national parks.
The third most visited protected area is the Jericoacoara National Park, located in the state of Ceará, known for its stunning sand dunes and beautiful beaches. Jericoacoara is a popular destination for windsurfing and kitesurfing enthusiasts due to its favorable wind conditions. The Chapada Diamantina National Park, located in the state of Bahia, is famous for its rock formations, waterfalls, and caves. Finally, the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in the state of Maranhão is known for its unique lunar landscape formed by white sand dunes and turquoise freshwater lagoons.