When a habitat looks lush but is actually devoid of much of its native wildlife, it is sometimes called a green desert. A green desert might refer to a field planted with a single crop (called “monoculture”) or a forest planted with just one or several tree species. In both cases, the landscape appears green and vibrant but actually lacks the biodiversity — and interactions between species — that are necessary for a healthy ecosystem. 

One example of this is in Brazil’s Tijuca National Park, a massive, tree-filled expanse in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. From a distance, this densely forested park looks like a wilderness, but on closer inspection, it is eerily empty of life. That’s because the park was the result of a reforestation campaign from the 1860s, which brought back the trees, but not the wildlife. Today, an organization called Refauna is reintroducing seed dispersers like agoutis, yellow-footed tortoises, and howler monkeys that will restore key ecosystem functions and improve forest health. The story of that reintroduction, and its importance for the forest’s future, is told in the Wild Hope episode Rewilding Rio.