Igapó, the forest made of water

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: Ambiental Media, National Geographic

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 03/09/2021

Credit: Thiago Medaglia, Letícia Klein, Ronaldo Ribeiro, Luiz Iria, Grande Circular


Thiago Medaglia is a journalist and writer, the founder and editor of Ambiental. Editor at National Geographic Brasil (2001-2013), a fellow at the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ, 2015), a graduate in Entrepreneurial Journalism from the City University of New York (Cuny, 2016), a panelist at two sessions of the World Conference of Science Journalism (WCSJ, 2017), a fellow in the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT (KSJ-MIT, 2019-2020) and currently a Master degree student in the History of Science Department at Harvard.

Letícia Klein is a journalist focusing on environmental and scientific issues. Creator and author of the blog Sustenta Ações, a reporter for Ambiental Media, and editor of Um Só Planeta newsletter (a Brazilian editorial movement aimed at impactful solutions to the climate crisis). Her work has appeared in several outlets, including Mongabay, National Geographic, Projeto Colabora, and Conexão Planeta. 

Luiz Iria is a founding partner of Luiz Iria – Infographics Art Solutions, where he performs infographics, illustrations, interactive web animations, consultancy, lectures and workshops. He worked at Editora Abril from 1995 to 2013, in particular at Superinteressante magazine, where he was the precursor of the language of infographics. He has won over 30 Malofiej Awards, the world’s largest infographics awards, where he was also a judge, among other prizes, such as ESSO awards and a Gold Medal in the yearbook of The Society of Publication Designers. He worked at Editora Moderna from 2015 to 2019 creating infographics for the education area.

Ronaldo Ribeiro worked for 27 years at Editora Abril, in São Paulo, as a magazine editor, where he helped develop the project of the first adventure travel magazine and environmental conservation of Brazil, “Caminhos da Terra”. Over a period of 8 years at the magazine, he traveled to more than 30 countries and to all Brazilian states to write reports on various topics – conservation, science, culture, ecotourism. Such experience allowed him to be invited to the position of senior editor of the Brazilian edition of National Geographic, launched in May 2000. For 19 years, until the end of the publication, in November 2019, Ronaldo was responsible for managing the brand’s content in Portuguese. 

Grande Circular is a design office. Since 2010, it has leveraged initiatives using a combination of strategy and creativity. It collaborates to transform good ideas into beautiful experiences, always keeping an eye on the interactions between people, brands and products.

Project description:

The infographic provides a sample of the rich biodiversity of the igapó, one of the most representative wetlands in the Amazon. The igapó forests remain flooded for most of the year, up to ten months in certain areas, which differentiates it from the other two main types of forest in the region: the floodplain and the terra firme. The infographic presents a broad image typical of the igapó, with species of fauna and flora that are highlighted or appear as an element of surprise as the person scrolls down the page. Each highlight is accompanied by an explanatory text.

Impact reached:

The infographic is part of Especial Amazônia, a journalistic project developed by National Geographic Brazil and its collaborators to provide the public with information about the largest tropical forest in the world and help in its conservation. In addition to the infographic, the Ambiental Media team also wrote an article that reveals how natural causes, climate change and human activities (mining, deforestation, hydroelectric dams) combine in a scenario of threat to floodable areas in the Amazon (“Climate change and human activities already threaten flooding areas of the Amazon”, listed as a link further down in this application). Rich in biodiversity and riverine culture, floodplains and igapós fill and dry up every year according to the rainforest cycle, but the pulse of river flooding is no longer predictable. We spoke to scientists who are trying to better understand the impacts, which include the mortality of flora species and a reduction in the period of cultivation of agricultural crops, resulting in economic loss and food insecurity for riverine families.

According to Angélica Resende, one of the interviewed researchers, “the more we advance towards water, in the Amazon, the less knowledge there is”. Likewise, the attention that the mainstream media gives to aquatic ecosystems is less or non-existent. The infographic and the report therefore aim to draw attention to these areas and how they are suffering in large part due to human impacts. The infographic had 197,077 page views in Portuguese, and 452,446 in Spanish.

Techniques/technologies used:

The illustrations were created by Luiz Iria, one of the best infographic designers in Brazil, in Photoshop program mixing features of digital brushes with photomontages to give more realism and visual impact. The design office Grande Circular was responsible for the web development and user experience, taking care of prototyping, usability and also implementing the infographics. It was a multidisciplinary team work, relying on tests and suggestions about formats and sequences, which the team validated as the process progressed, while at the same time exchanging information and references about content and texts. The team had the idea of ​​using the tree as a central element within the Igapó and, based on it, made the interactions showing information about animals that inhabit the forest. The elements and texts in the landscape are animated as the page scrolls, navigating in a carefully thought-out sequence. The project presents a lightweight scrollytelling site, which mainly uses CSS transforms (CSS transforms) for the animations and visual effects and a few lines of pure JS (vanilla JS) for the detection of scrolling and hover text (viewport). 

What was the hardest part of this project?

This project combines state-of-the-art science, data journalism, interactivity and art, to show one of the realities of the largest tropical forest in the world, extol its biodiversity and alert to the risks that threaten fauna, flora and the riverine communities in the amazonian floodplains. The most difficult and challenging part is precisely to create the entire environment of the theme presented, making it very close to reality using the digital resources that the program offers. Another challenge is to explain and illustrate a specific and lesser-known landscape of the Amazon Forest – which is more complex in its ecosystems than many people usually imagine. 

What can others learn from this project?

The infographic is an example of how to illustrate scientific data in an innovative, accessible and attractive way. It goes out of the ordinary by using an illustration with elements of an area of ​​the Amazon that is little known and studied, putting people in loco in one of the most biodiverse forest scenarios in the world. The central tree presented in the infographic is an iconic species of igapó forest, called macacarecuia, and 800-year-old individuals have been identified. The infographic is an example of scientific information that is not in the public domain nor is accessible to most journalists. The wetlands in the Amazon are difficult to access, therefore we bring the public and journalists closer to these regions. Ambiental Media is seeking innovative paths in science and environmental journalism in Brazil and seeks to serve as an inspiration to other journalists.

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