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It is a plant formation that can be found in the northeastern semiarid region. It is also present in the extreme northern regions of Minas Gerais and southern Maranhão and Piauí states.
Therefore, it is typical of regions with low rainfall (presence of dry soil). In the language of the first inhabitants of Brazil, "caatinga" means "white forest", due to the large regions of rain forest. However, behind the aridity of the area, lies a territory with enormous biodiversity.
The caatinga is covered by relatively fertile soils. Although it has no logging potential, except for secular firewood, the region is rich in genetic resources due to its high biodiversity. On the other hand, the aggressive aspect of the vegetation contrasts with the diverse color of the emerging flowers during the rainy season, whose rainfall varies between 300 and 800 mm annually.
The caatinga has three strata:
- arboreal (8 to 12 meters)
- shrubby (2 to 5 meters)
- herbaceous (below 2 meters)
Contradictorily, the sertões flora, composed of species with a long history of adaptation to heat and dryness, is unable to naturally restructure if machines are used to alter the soil. The degradation is therefore irreversible in the caatinga.
Amid such aridity, the caatinga surprises with its "islands of moisture" and fertile soils. These are the so-called marshes, which break the monotony of the physical and geological conditions of the backlands. On these islands it is possible to produce almost all foods and fruits peculiar to the tropics of the world.
As examples of caatinga vegetation, we can mention the shrubs (aroeira, angico and juazeiro), bromeliads (caroá) and cacti (mandacaru and xique-xique from the sertão). Some species of bromeliads are used to make bags, belts, ropes and nets because they are rich in plant fibers.