INTRODUCTION TO THE AMAZON RAINFOREST
The Amazon River Basin is home to the largest rainforest on earth. The basin, which is approximately forty-eight contiguous, covers about 40 per cent of the continent of South America and comprises parts of eight countries in South America: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname, as well as French Guiana, part of France.
The Amazon, which reflects environmental conditions as well as human impact in the past, reflects a mosaic of ecosystems and vegetation types, including rainforests, seasonal forests, deserts, submerged forests and savannahs. The basin is drained from the Amazon River, the world’s largest river in terms of discharge, and the second longest river in the world after the River Nile. The river is made up of more than 1,100 tributaries, of which 17 are longer than 1,000 miles, and two of them (Negro and Madeira) are larger in size, than Congo (formerly Zaire) river. The river system is the lifeline of the forest and its history plays an important role in the development of rainforests.
At one time the Amazon River flowed westward, possibly as part of the Congo River Proto Congo (Zaire) system from the interior of Africa today when the continents joined as part of Gondwana. Fifteen million years ago, the Andes were formed by the collision of the South American plate with the Nazca plate. The rise of the Andes and the linking of the Brazilian and Guyana rock shields led to the river dam and caused the Amazon to become a vast inland sea. Gradually this inland sea has become a huge swamp, a freshwater lake and a marine population adapted to freshwater life. For example, more than 20 species of sting, most closely related to those found in the Pacific, can be found today in freshwater in the Amazon.
About 10 million years ago, the water worked through sandstone to the west and the Amazon began to flow eastward. At this time Amazon rain forest was born. During the Ice Age, sea levels dropped, and the great Amazon was rapidly depleted and became a river. Three million years later, the level of the oceans has fallen sufficiently to expose the Central American isthmus and allow the mass migration of mammal species among the Americas.
Ice ages in tropical rainforests around the world have been declining. Despite the debate, it is believed that much of the Amazon has returned to savannah and mountain forests (see Chapter 3 – Ice Age and Ice Age). Savannah has divided patches of rainforests into “islands” and separated existing species long enough to allow for genetic differentiation (a similar decline occurred in Africa’s rainforests, and Delta’s core samples indicate that the huge global watersheds were free from rainforests at this time). When the Ice Ages ended, the forest again joined and species that were one at a time had varied sufficiently enough to be labeled as separate species, in addition to the vast diversity of the region. About 6,000 years ago, sea levels rose by about 130 meters, again causing the river to submerge as a giant, long, freshwater lake.
Now a Days:
Today the Amazon River is the most massive river on the earth, eleven times the size of the Mississippi, and the equivalent space in size to the United States. During the high water season, the mouth of the river may be 300 miles wide and each day reaches 500 billion cubic feet of water (5,787,037 cubic feet / second) flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. As a reference, the daily discharge of freshwater in the Amazon to the Atlantic is sufficient to provide the New York City needs of fresh water for nine years. The power of the current – from pure water alone – makes the waters of the Amazon continue to flow 125 miles to the sea before mixing with Atlantic saline water. Early seafarers can drink fresh water from the ocean before seeing the South American continent.
The river stream carries tons of sediment lingering along the road from the Andes and gives the river a unified appearance and muddy frequency. It is calculated that 106 million cubic feet of suspended sediment swept the oceans every day. The result of silt deposited in the mouth of the Amazon is the island of Magaro, a river island about the size of Switzerland.
Protection of The Forest:
While the Amazon rain forest is being destroyed, the overall rate of deforestation in the region is slowing, largely due to the sharp decline in deforestation in Brazil since 2004.
The low rate of deforestation in Brazil is due to several factors, some of which are controlled and some are not controlled. Since 2000, Brazil has created the world’s largest network of protected areas, most of which are located in the Amazon region. Since 2004, the Government has also had a program to reduce deforestation. This includes improving law enforcement, satellite monitoring and financial incentives to respect environmental laws. Moreover, the private sector – especially the soybean, logging and livestock industries – is increasingly responding to demand for less harmful commodities. Finally, the Brazilian Amazon has been the site of a number of innovative and ambitious conservation experiences, ranging from the certification of judicial goods to ERD reduction projects led by indigenous peoples to performance-based performance-based Norway payments to reduce deforestation.