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Amazon rainforest
Portuguese: Floresta amazônica

Spanish: Selva amazónica
Amazon17 (5641020319).jpg
Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest near Manaus
Amazon rainforest (orthographic projection).svg
Map of the Amazon rainforest ecoregions as delineated by the WWF in dark green and the Amazon drainage basin in light green.
Location Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana (France), Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela
Coordinates 3°S 60°W / 3°S 60°W / -3; -60
Area 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi)

The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world.

The forest is in a basin drained mainly by the Amazon River, with 1100 tributaries. It is a moist broadleaf forest which covers seven million square kilometers (1.7 billion acres). Of this, five and a half million square kilometers (1.4 billion acres) are covered by the rainforest.

This region includes territory from nine nations. Most of the forest is in Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, and Colombia with 10%. Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana have just a small amount of rainforest.

The Amazon has over half of the planet's rainforest area. It has many species of plants some include rosewood, mahogany and ebony. It is the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world. The forest was formed at least 55 million years ago, in the Eocene period.


Biodiversity, flora and fauna

Amazon biome outline map
Map of the Amazon rainforest ecoregions

Wet tropical forests are the most species-rich biome, and tropical forests in the Americas are consistently more species rich than the wet forests in Africa and Asia. As the largest tract of tropical rainforest in the Americas, the Amazonian rainforests have unparalleled biodiversity. One in ten known species in the world lives in the Amazon rainforest. This constitutes the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world.

The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, tens of thousands of plants, and some 2,000 birds and mammals. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified in the region. One in five of all bird species are found in the Amazon rainforest, and one in five of the fish species live in Amazonian rivers and streams. Scientists have described between 96,660 and 128,843 invertebrate species in Brazil alone.

The biodiversity of plant species is the highest on Earth with one 2001 study finding a quarter square kilometer (62 acres) of Ecuadorian rainforest supports more than 1,100 tree species. A study in 1999 found one square kilometer (247 acres) of Amazon rainforest can contain about 90,790 tonnes of living plants. The average plant biomass is estimated at 356 ± 47 tonnes per hectare. To date, an estimated 438,000 species of plants of economic and social interest have been registered in the region with many more remaining to be discovered or catalogued. The total number of tree species in the region is estimated at 16,000.

The green leaf area of plants and trees in the rainforest varies by about 25% as a result of seasonal changes. Leaves expand during the dry season when sunlight is at a maximum, then undergo abscission in the cloudy wet season. These changes provide a balance of carbon between photosynthesis and respiration.

The rainforest contains several species that can pose a hazard. Among the largest predatory creatures are the black caiman, jaguar, cougar, and anaconda. In the river, electric eels can produce an electric shock that can stun or kill, while piranha are known to bite and injure humans. Various species of poison dart frogs secrete lipophilic alkaloid toxins through their flesh. There are also numerous parasites and disease vectors. Vampire bats dwell in the rainforest and can spread the rabies virus. Malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever can also be contracted in the Amazon region.

The biodiversity in the Amazon is becoming increasingly threatened, primarily by habitat loss from deforestation as well as increased frequency of fires. Over 90% of Amazonian plant and vertebrate species (13,000-14,000 in total) may have been impacted to some degree by fires.


River in the Amazon rainforest
A river in the Amazon rainforest

More than a fifth of the Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed. The forest which remains is threatened. People who care for the environment warn about the loss of biodiversity. They also point out that releasing the carbon which is stored in the trees will increase global warming.

Environmentalists are concerned about loss of biodiversity due to the destruction of the forest. Also, the release of the carbon in the vegetation would accelerate global warming. Amazonian evergreen forests account for about 10% of the world's productivity on land and 10% of the carbon stores in ecosystems. of the order of 1.1 × 1011 metric tonnes of carbon. Amazonian forests are estimated to have accumulated 0.62 ± 0.37 tons of carbon per hectare per year between 1975 and 1996.

Some people have calculated that it may even pay to save the forest. They said that one hectare of Amazonian forest in Peru is worth about US$6280, if it is used to harvest fruits, latex and timber (wood). If all the wood is cut down for timber, it has a value of about US$1000. Obviously, this can only be done once; it is not sustainable. When the forest has been cleared, the hectare of land can be used as a pasture, and is worth about US$148. Not all people agree on the study; some have questioned the assumptions behind it.

The Brazilian Air Force has been using surveillance aircraft to monitor the forest. At a conference in 2004, scientists warned that the rainforest will no longer be able to absorb the millions of tons of greenhouse gases annually, as it usually does, because of the increased speed of rainforest destruction.

By 2018, about 17% of the Amazon rainforest had been destroyed. When 20–25% (3–8% more) is destroyed, the climate will change. It will flip to a non-forest ecosystem – degraded savannah. As their homelands continue to be destroyed by deforestation, rainforest peoples are also disappearing.

Rubber boom

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How people collect rubber from trees

Once the process of vulcanization was invented, companies began to make many kinds of new rubber products, such as boots and seals for machines. American and European companies began buying large amounts of latex from Brazil. This boom in Brazilian rubber began around 1870, but the need for automobile tires brought the greatest wealth to the new rubber producers.

Other rain forests have rubber trees, but Amazonia has by far the best. However, the trees could not be farmed on plantations because if they were next to each other, the insects would eat them. Therefore, people had to find the trees in the rain forest, cut slits in them, leave cups to collect the latex, and come back later to get it.

Thousands of people moved to the rain forest to work collecting rubber. Most of these people were hired by rich rubber merchants. The rubber merchants loaned them money to come down the river and buy tools. Each merchant’s collectors had to sell the rubber only to their rubber merchant at low prices and buy supplies only from them at high prices. That meant the collectors were always in debt to their merchant and could not leave to do something else. The rubber merchants quickly became very rich.

The center of the rubber trade was Manaus on the Rio Negro. It became first a boom town and then a beautiful, wealthy city. It had electricity before most of the cities in the United States did. The newly rich merchants built huge expensive homes and brought in automobiles to travel on the city’s few roads. They built a magnificent opera house with crystal chandeliers and decorated tiles brought all the way from Europe.

However, the rubber boom only lasted about forty years, ending by 1913. Some men had taken the seeds of the Amazon rubber trees and began growing them in the Asian rain forests. The trees grew well there, and they could be grown on plantations. The insects that could destroy them were in South America. So the price of rubber began to fall, and the rubber boom stopped.

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Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Amazonia para niños

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