Living Reference Work Entry

Marine Animal Forests

pp 1-38

Date: Latest Version

Brazilian Marine Animal Forests: A New World to Discover in the Southwestern Atlantic

  • Marcelo Oliveira de SoaresAffiliated withInstituto de Ciências do Mar (LABOMAR), Universidade Federal do Ceará Email author 
  • , Tito Monteiro Cruz da LotufoAffiliated withInstituto Oceanográfico (IO), Universidade de São Paulo Email author 
  • , Leandro Manzoni VieiraAffiliated withDepartamento de Zoologia, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco Email author 
  • , Sula SalaniAffiliated withMuseu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro Email author 
  • , Eduardo HajduAffiliated withMuseu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro Email author 
  • , Helena Matthews-CasconAffiliated withDepartamento de Biologia, Universidade Federal do Ceará Email author 
  • , Zelinda M. A. N. LeãoAffiliated withInstituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal da Bahia Email author 
  • , Ruy Kenji Papa de KikuchiAffiliated withInstituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal da Bahia Email author 


The Southwestern Atlantic Ocean is the final Brazilian maritime frontier. The Brazilian authorities refer to this marine area as the “Blue Amazon,” being rich in biodiversity and ecosystem services and similar in extension to the country’s rainforest. This area is possibly one of the most important benthic biodiversity hotspots in the world; however, there is a lack of scientific knowledge about its marine biodiversity. Interestingly, these benthic communities generate three-dimensional structures along the Brazilian coast, similar to the trees in the Amazon rainforest. The Brazilian marine animal forests (BRAF) in the “Blue Amazon” can be compared to their rainforest counterpart: an ecosystem with high diversity but relatively unknown. This chapter presents a review of the environmental characteristics and benthic habitats along the tropical coast of Brazil (coral reefs, intertidal sandstone reefs, benthic communities in rocky shores, continental shelf communities, oceanic islands, etc.). Furthermore, it presents synthetic information regarding the ecology and diversity of the benthic suspension feeders (sponges, scleractinian corals, octocorals, zoanthids, mollusks, ascidians, and bryozoans) in Southwestern Atlantic. Major knowledge gaps remain the baseline research on benthic communities in mesophotic and deep-sea reef ecosystems in this marine region. Finally, this chapter reviews the major anthropogenic threats (urbanization, aquaculture, invasive species, mining, climate change, and petroleum and gas exploration) and makes recommendations for further research and conservation programs.


Marine environments Tropical ecosystems Benthic biodiversity Conservation Brazil Southwestern Atlantic Coral reefs Benthic suspension feeders Sponges Ascidians Bryozoans Mollusks Cnidarians