THE AMAZON RIVER
River in South America is the second longest river in the world after the Nile
river in Africa. At over 4,080 miles long, this mighty river runs from the Andes Mountains in Peru through Brazil
to the Atlantic Ocean. It contains more water than any other river in the
world. The Amazon is so massive it actually contains more water than the
Mississippi, the Nile and the Yangtze combined.
how quick one second is...now consider this....in one second the Amazon pours
almost 60 million gallons, or 620,000 cubic yards of water, into the Atlantic
Ocean. This massive influx of fresh water actually dilutes the ocean's
salinity, or saltiness, for up to 100 miles offshore. The water flowing
out of the Amazon creates a brackish water system of a combination of both fresh
and salt water for literally hundreds of square miles!
To put this
massive amount of water into perspective keep in mind that one days worth of
water flowing out of the Amazon is the equivalent of 12 years worth of water
usage by the city of New York, that is every faucet, every shower, every toilet
and all other combined sources of fresh water consumed by millions of people for
12 years! It flows out of the Amazon every day....
way, the average back yard swimming pool is about 30,000 gallons, the amazing
Amazon River dumps enough water into the Atlantic Ocean every second to fill
2,000 swimming pools! EVERY SECOND!
system is one of the world's most important river systems. The Amazon River
accounts for up to 1/5 of the earth's fresh water. On an annual basis the Amazon
dumps literally millions of tons of particulate matter into the ocean. The
solid particles contain extremely important organic matter.
is the widest river in the world. Inland from the mouth of the river there are
portions of this giant river that are almost 5 miles wide. This impressive width
expands to almost 15 miles during the flooded season. The overall delta
region where the river empties into the Atlantic is 150 miles wide.
interesting that it is widening by as much as 6 feet per year due to waves from
ships breaking down the banks.
got its name from the Spanish explorers. Female warriors called "Icamiabas",
meaning "women without husbands" attacked Francisco Orellana. Orellana named the
river "Rio Amazonas" after these women whom he compared to the Amazons of
ancient Greek mythology.
The Amazon River basin is the home of
so many animals- especially "extreme" creatures, like catfish which, in the
U.S., grow up to 40 lbs., but in Brazil have been measured up to 200 lbs. There
is also the anaconda, the
heaviest snake in the world, and the piranha, one of the most ferocious fish in the
The Amazon River is home
to over 2,000 different species of fish, this incredible diversity of fish
species is found virtually no where else on earth.
The Wealth of the Rainforests
Amazonian Rainforest covers slightly more than one billion acres, encompassing areas in
Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia and the Eastern Andean region of Ecuador and Peru.
If Amazonia were a country, it would be the ninth largest in the world.
Rainforest has been described as the "Lungs of our Planet" because it provides
the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling carbon
dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in
the Amazon Rainforest.
More than half of the world's estimated 10 million species of plants, animals
and insects live in the tropical rainforests. One-fifth of the world's fresh
water is in the Amazon Basin.
hectare (2.47 acres) may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of
least 80% of the developed world's diet originated in the tropical rainforest.
Its bountiful gifts to the world include fruits like avocados, coconuts, figs,
oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos and tomatoes;
vegetables including corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash and yams; spices like
black pepper, cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane,
turmeric, coffee and vanilla and nuts including Brazil nuts and cashews. At
least 3000 fruits are found in the rainforests; of these only 200 are now in
use in the Western World. The Indians of the rainforest use over 2,000.
Rainforest plants are rich in secondary metabolites, particularly alkaloids.
Biochemists believe alkaloids protect plants from disease and insect attacks.
Many alkaloids from higher plants have proven to be of medicinal value and
Currently, 121 prescription drugs currently sold worldwide come from
plant-derived sources. And while 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived
from rainforest ingredients, less than 1% of these tropical trees and plants
have been tested by scientists.
U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3000 plants that are active
against cancer cells. 70% of these plants are found in the rainforest.
Twenty-five percent of the active ingredients in today's cancer-fighting drugs
come from organisms found only in the rainforest
Vincristine, extracted from the rainforest plant, Periwinkle, is one of the
world's most powerful anticancer drugs. It has dramatically increased the
survival rate for acute childhood leukemia since its discovery.
1983, there were no U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers involved in research
programs to discover new drugs or cures from plants. Today, over 100
pharmaceutical companies and several branches of the US government, including
giants like Merck and The National Cancer Institute, are engaged in plant
research projects for possible drugs and cures for viruses, infections, cancer
and even AIDS.
The Amazon Rainforest...
The Last Frontier on Earth
If Amazonia were a
country, it would be the ninth largest in the world.
Rainforest, the world's greatest remaining natural
resource, is the most powerful and bio-actively diverse natural phenomenon on
the planet. It has as been described as the "Lungs of our Planet" because it
provides the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling
carbon dioxide into oxygen. It is estimated that over twenty percent of earth's
oxygen is produced in this area. As we actively deforest the Amazon and
other tropical forests, we are literally "turning off" a giant oxygen producing
machine each time we cut down a tree.
rainforest covers over 1.2 billion acres representing two-fifths of the enormous
South American continent and is found in nine South American countries: Brazil,
Columbia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and the three Guyana's. With 2.5
million square miles of rainforest, the Amazon Rainforest represents 54 percent
of the total rainforests left on the planet.
The life force of the Amazon Rainforest is the
mighty Amazon River. It starts as a trickle high in the snow-capped Andes
mountains and flows over 4,000 miles across the South American continent until
it enters the Atlantic ocean at Belem, Brazil where it is 200 to 300 miles
across, depending on the season. Even 1,000 miles inland, it is still 7 miles in
width. The river is so deep that ocean liners can travel 2,300 miles inland, up
its length. The Amazon River flows through the center of the rainforest and is
fed by 1,100 tributaries, seventeen of which are over 1,000 miles long.
The Amazon is by far the largest river system in
the world and over two-thirds of all the fresh water found on earth is in the
Amazon basin's rivers, streams and tributaries. With so much water its not
unusual that that the main mode of transportation throughout the area is by
boat. The smallest and most common boats used today are still made out of
hollowed tree trunks, whether they are powered by outboard motors or more often
by man-powered paddles. Almost 14,000 miles of Amazon waterway are navigable and
several million miles through swamps and forests are penetrable by canoe.
The enormous Amazon River carries massive amounts
of silt from run-off from the rainforest floor. Massive amounts of silt
deposited at the mouth of the Amazon river has created the largest river island
in the world, Marajo Island, which is roughly the size of Switzerland. With this
massive fresh water system, it not unusual that the life beneath the water is as
abundant and diverse as the surrounding rainforest's plant and animal species.
Over 2,000 species of fish have been identified in the Amazon Basin - more
species than the entire Atlantic Ocean.
The Amazon Basin
was formed in the Paleozoic period, somewhere between 500 and 200 million years
ago. The extreme age of the region in geologic terms has much to do with the
relative infertility of the rainforest soil and the richness and unique
diversity of the plant and animal life. There are more fertile areas in the
Amazon River's flood plain, where the river deposits richer soil brought from
the Andes, which only formed 20 million years ago.
The rich diversity of plant
species in the Amazon Rainforest is the highest on earth. Experts show that one
hectare (2.47 acres) may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of
higher plants and it is estimated that one hectare of Amazon rainforest contains
about 900 tons of living plants. Altogether it contains the largest collection
of living plants and animal species in the world. The Andean mountain range and
the Amazon jungle are home to more than half of the world's species of flora and
fauna and one in five of all the birds in the world live in the rainforests of
the Amazon.. To date, some 438,000 species of plants of economic and
social interest have been registered in the region and
many more have yet been cataloged or even discovered.
Once a vast sea of
tropical forest, the Amazon rainforest today is scarred by roads, farms, ranches
and dams. Brazil is gifted with a full third of the world's remaining
rainforests and unfortunately, it is also one of the world's great rainforest
destroyers, burning or felling over 2.7 million acres each year. Today, more
than 20 percent of rainforest in the Amazon has been razed and is gone forever.
This ocean of green nearly as large as Australia, is the last great rainforest
in the known universe and it is being decimated like the others before it. Why?
Like other rainforests already lost forever, the land is being cleared for
logging timber, large scale cattle ranching, mining operations, government road
building and hydroelectric schemes, military operations, and the subsistence
agriculture of peasants and landless settlers. Sadder still, in many places the
rainforests are burnt simply to provide charcoal to power industrial plants in