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Amazon rainforest

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Map of the Amazon rainforest ecoregions
Rain forest trees
Venomous snake from the rainforest: the black-skinned parrotsnake
How people collect rubber from trees

The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world.

The forest is in a basin drained mainly by the Amazon River, with 1,100 tributaries. It is a moist broadleaf forest which covers 7,000,000 square kilometres (2,700,000 sq mi). Of this, 5,500,000 square kilometres (2,100,000 sq mi) 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.[1]

The Amazon has over half of the planet's rainforest area.[2] 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.[3] The forest was formed at least 55 million years ago, in the Eocene period.


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Aerial roots of red mangrove on an Amazonian river

Wet tropical forests are the most species-rich biome. Tropical forests in the Americas have more species than African and Asian wet forests.

More than one-third of all species in the world live in the Amazon rainforest.[4] It is the richest tropical forest in the world in terms of biodiversity.

The region is home to ~2.5 million insect species, tens of thousands of species of plants, and some 2000 species of birds and mammals and a similar number of fish.[5] The diversity of plant species is the highest on earth with some experts estimating that one square kilometre may contain over 75,000 types of trees and 150,000 species of higher plants.[6] These trees absorb tons of carbon dioxide every year and slow down the climate change along with producing 20% of earth's oxygen. Hence, they are also known as 'Lungs of Earth'.[7][8] One square kilometre of Amazon rainforest can have about 90,000 tons of living plants. This is the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world. One in five of all the birds in the world live here. 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 cataloged.


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A river in the Amazon rainforest

The rain forest is shrinking. Man is causing this. More than a fifth of the Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed.[9] 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.[10] of the order of 1.1 × 1011 metric tonnes of carbon.[11] Amazonian forests are estimated to have accumulated 0.62 ± 0.37 tons of carbon per hectare per year between 1975 and 1996.[11]

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.[12][13] As their homelands continue to be destroyed by deforestation, rainforest peoples are also disappearing.

Rubber boom

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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.[14]

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.[14]

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.[14] 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.[14] 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.[14]

However, the rubber boom only lasted about forty years, ending by 1913.[14] 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 Amazon rubber boom stopped.[14]

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  1. "Amazon Rainforest Facts". SoftSchools.com. April 20, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  2. "WNF: Places: Amazon". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  3. "Field Museum scientists estimate 16,000 tree species in the Amazon". Field Museum. 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  4. "Amazon rainforest fact sheet". World Bank. December 15, 2005. Archived from the original on May 3, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  5. Albert J.S. & Reis R.E. 2011. (ed.). Historical biogeography of neotropical freshwater fishes. Berkeley: University of California Press.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: editors list (link)
  6. Turner I.M. 2001. The ecology of trees in the tropical rain forest. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80183-4
  7. "Tropical rainforests, 'lungs' of the planet, reveal true sensitivity to global warming | UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology". www.ceh.ac.uk. Retrieved 2023-09-21.
  8. "Amazon: Lungs of the planet". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 2023-09-21.
  9. "Deforesters are plundering the Amazon. Brazil is letting them get away with it". Washington Post. Retrieved 2023-09-21.
  10. Melillo, J. M.; et al. (May 20, 1993). "Global climate change and terrestrial net primary production". Nature. 363 (6426): 234–240. doi:10.1038/363234a0. S2CID 4370074.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Tian, H.; et al. (July 2000). "Climatic and biotic controls on annual carbon storage in Amazonian ecosystems". Global Ecology and Biogeography. 9 (4): 315–335. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.2000.00198.x.
  12. "Amazon Rainforest 'heading to point of no return'". February 22, 2018.
  13. "Amazon Tipping Point".
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 Theresa K. Buskey History and geography. Alpha Omega Publications. p26 ISBN 978-1-58095-155-5

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