The variety of climates together with soil and drainage conditions is reflected in Brazil's vegetation. A tropical rain forest composed of broad-leaf evergreen trees grows luxuriantly in the Amazon Basin and in those places along the Atlantic coast where the rainfall is very heavy. The rain forest is home to a great many different plant species - as many as 3,000 in a sq. mile (2.6 sq. km).
In the lowlands and plateaus of the eastern coast where rainfall is slightly less and the dry season is really dry, there is semi-deciduous forest. Here the trees are smaller than in the rain forest and they lose their leaves in the dry season. In the semi-arid northeast, the caatinga, a dry bush, predominates.
The greater portion of the central part of Brazil is covered with a woodland savannah, known as the cerrado. This is a special type of vegetation combining sparse scrub trees and drought-resistant grasses. In the south, needle-leaved pinewoods (Paran-pine) cover the highlands; grassland covers the plains near sea level .
The Mato Grosso swamp (Pantanal Mato-grossense) is a plain that covers 88,803 sq. miles (230,000 sq. km) in the western portion of the centre of the country. It is covered in tall grasses, weeds, and widely dispersed trees. It is flooded during the rainy season.
Of the twelve categories of mammals that inhabit the tropics of the Western Hemisphere, eleven are present in Brazil, representing over 600 species. This includes several species of the cat family such as the jaguar and smaller cats such as the puma, jaguarundi, and the ocelot. Other mammals include sloths, anteaters, tapirs, armadillos, dolphins, capybaras (a large aquatic rodent, some weighting up to 66 kg), and 30 species of monkeys.
Brazil has a larger variety of birds than any other country, with 1,600 species including many varieties of parrot. There are at least 40 species of turtles, 120 lizards, 230 snakes, 5 species of alligators, 331 species of amphibians, and 1,500 species of freshwater fish. Naturalists have catalogued over 100,000 invertebrates in Brazil of which more than 70,000 are insects.
Brazil is known to possess extremely rich mineral deposits, although the country's resources are still not yet completely surveyed. Brazil has proven and estimated reserves of iron ore totalling 48 billion tons. Of the total iron ore reserves, 18 billion tons are located in the Carajás mountain range (Serra dos Carajás) in the eastern part of the Amazon. Mining started in 1985. known reserves are sufficient to supply the world demand for iron (based on current levels and predictable growth) for the next 500 years. In addition to iron ores Brazil has proven deposits of 208 million tons of manganese, 2 billion tons of bauxite, and 53 million tons of nickel with a new discovery in the state of Goiás which could amount to more than 400 million tons.
Brazil possesses reserves of high-grade uranium, potassium phosphate, tungsten (an element used for hardening steel), cassiterite (the chief source of tin), lead, graphite, chrome, gold, zirconium (a strong ductile metallic element with many industrial uses), and the rare minerals, niobium, tantalite-increasingly used in electronics - and thorium, a radioactive metallic element. Brazil produces 90 percent of the world's supply of gems, such as diamonds, aquamarines, topazes, amethysts, tourmalines, and emeralds.