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Amazon rainforest

Outline of the Amazon rainforest

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The Amazon landscape in Rio 2

The Amazon Rainforest (Portuguese: Floresta Amazônica or Amazônia; Spanish: Selva Amazónica, Amazonía or usually Amazonia; French: Forêt Amazonienne; Dutch: Amazoneregenwoud), also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America. This basin encompasses 7,000,000 square kilometers (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 square kilometers (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest. This region includes territory belonging to nine nations. The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. States or departments in four nations contain Amazonas in their names. The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining Rainforest, and it comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.

Tapuyus and other tribes from South America. The women of the tribe fought alongside the men, as was the custom among the entire tribe. Orellana derived the name Amazonas from the mythical Amazons of Asia and Africa described by Herodotus and Diodorus in Greek legends.

In Rio 2, Blu, Jewel, and their three chicks, Carla, Bia, and Tiago travel to the Amazon with their friends: Rafael, Nico, and Pedro as well, tagging along to find the Spix's Macaw Tribe.

History

The rainforest likely formed during the Eocene era. It appeared following a global reduction of tropical temperatures when the Atlantic Ocean had widened sufficiently to provide a warm, moist climate to the Amazon basin. The rain forest has been in existence for at least 55,000,000 years, and most of the region remained free of savanna-type biomes at least until the current ice age, when the climate was drier and savanna more widespread.

Following the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the wetter climate may have allowed the tropical rainforest to spread out across the continent. From 65–34 Mya, the rainforest extended as far south as 45°. Climate fluctuations during the last 34 million years have allowed savanna regions to expand into the tropics. During the Oligocene, for example, the rainforest spanned a relatively narrow band that lay mostly above latitude 15°N. It expanded again during the Middle Miocene, then retracted to a mostly inland formation at the last glacial maximum. However, the rainforest still managed to thrive during these glacial periods, allowing for the survival and evolution of a broad diversity of species.

During the mid-Eocene, it is believed that the drainage basin of the Amazon was split along the middle of the continent by the Purus Arch. Water on the eastern side flowed toward the Atlantic, while to the west water flowed toward the Pacific across the Amazonas Basin. As the Andes Mountains rose, however, a large basin was created that enclosed a lake; now known as the Solimões Basin. Within the last 5–10 million years, this accumulating water broke through the Purus Arch, joining the easterly flow toward the Atlantic.

There is evidence that there have been significant changes in Amazon rainforest vegetation over the last 21,000 years through the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and subsequent deglaciation. Analyses of sediment deposits from Amazon basin paleolakes and from the Amazon Fan indicate that rainfall in the basin during the LGM was lower than for the present, and this was almost certainly associated with reduced moist tropical vegetation cover in the basin. There is debate, however, over how extensive this reduction was. Some scientists argue that the rainforest was reduced to small, isolated refugia separated by open forest and grassland; other scientists argue that the rainforest remained largely intact but extended less far to the north, south, and east than is seen today. This debate has proved difficult to resolve because the practical limitations of working in the rainforest mean that data sampling is biased away from the center of the Amazon basin, and both explanations are reasonably well supported by the available data.

More than half of the dust needed for fertilizing the Amazon rainforest is provided by the Bodélé depression in Sahara. Up to 50 million tonnes per year are windblown across the Atlantic Ocean.

The New 7 Wonders of Nature

The Amazon rainforest and River, along with other 6 locations (Jeju Island of South Korea, Halong Bay of Vietnam, Iguazú / Iguaçu Falls (National Park) of Argentina/Brazil, Puerto Princesa Underground River of Philippines, Komodo Island (National Park) of Indonesia and Table Mountain (National Park) of South Africa), have been officially announced as the New 7 Wonders of Nature on November 11th, 2011 in Zurich, Switzerland. Total voting set a new record for New7Wonders: over 500 million votes were cast – 500% more than in our first campaign to elect the man-made New7Wonders of the World. [1]

Amazon River

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Map showing the Amazon drainage basin

The Amazon River (Spanish and Portuguese: Amazonas) in South America is gene

rally regarded as the second longest river in the world and is by far the largest by waterflow with an average discharge of about 209,000 cubic meters per second (7,381,000 cu ft/s), greater than the next seven largest rivers combined (not including Madeira and Rio Negro, which are tributaries of the Amazon).

The Amazon, which has the largest drainage basin in the world, about 7,050,000 square kilometers (2,720,000 sq mi), accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world's total river flow. The river would have the biggest drainage basin in the world even just counting Brazil, which it enters with only one-fifth of the volume that will finally be discharged into the Atlantic.

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Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus

In its upper stretches, above the confluence of the Rio Negro, the Amazon is called Solimões in Brazil; however, in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, the river is generally called the Amazon downstream from the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers in Peru. The Ucayali-Apurímac river system is considered the main source of the Amazon, with its main headstream being the Carhuasanta glacial stream flowing off the Nevado Mismi mountain.

Biodiversity

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Scarlet macaw, which is indigenous to the American tropics.

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 the bird species in the world live in the rainforests of the Amazon, 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 some experts estimating that one square kilometer (247 acres) may contain more than a thousand types of trees and thousands of species of other higher plants. According to a 2001 study, a quarter square kilometer (62 acres) of Ecuadorian rainforest supports more than 1,100 tree species.

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 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.

Conservation

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Note: This data is now outdated. Today, it is estimated that cattle ranching is responsible for approximately 80% of the Amazon rainforest's clearing, due to the alarming increase in meat consumption and therefore, soybean production in the past 40 years.

Deforestation has been ongoing by domestic and foreign companies in Brazil, especially in the U.S. and several European countries, being 91% of the Amazon rainforest cut down in the last 40 years. Conservation groups around the world are concerned about deforestation, which happens to be somewhat part of Rio 2.

70% of the area that used to be covered by the forest and 91% of the now deforested area since 1970 is used to feed livestock. The cattle industry is the primary cause that led to the destruction of wildlife in Brazil and other countries globally. The vast fields used to grow soybeans and other beans are also very prejudicial to the fertility of the soil. About 80% of all soybeans produced in the Amazon is used as cattle feed.

The tropical rainforest continues to be degraded to support the ever-rising demand of animal products, which leads to an expanding area of farmland for plantations and livestock sustenance. As it happens, Brazil is one of the world's largest meat exporter, since many countries lack space to raise their own cattle. Aside from meat exports, Brazil is also a leading country in soybean exports and other beans used as cattle feed.

Deforestation

Operação Hymenaea, Julho-2016 (29399454651)

Deforestation in the Maranhão state of Brazil, 2016

Deforestation is the conversion of forested areas to non-forested areas. The main sources of deforestation in the Amazon are human settlement and development of the land. Prior to the early 1960s, access to the forest's interior was highly restricted, and the forest remained basically intact. Farms established during the 1960s were based on crop cultivation and the slash and burn method. However, the colonists were unable to manage their fields and the crops because of the loss of soil fertility and weed invasion. The soils in the Amazon are productive for just a short period of time, so farmers are constantly moving to new areas and clearing more land. These farming practices led to deforestation and caused extensive environmental damage. Deforestation is considerable, and areas cleared of forest are visible to the naked eye from outer space.

In the 1970s construction began on the Trans-Amazonian highway. This highway represented a major threat to the Amazon rainforest. The highway still has not been completed, limiting the environmental damage.

Between 1991 and 2000, the total area of forest lost in the Amazon rose from 415,000 to 587,000 square kilometres (160,000 to 227,000 sq mi), with most of the lost forest becoming pasture for cattle. Seventy percent of formerly forested land in the Amazon, and 91% of land deforested since 1970, is used for livestock pasture. Currently, Brazil is the second-largest global producer of soybeans after the United States. New research however, conducted by Leydimere Oliveira et al., has shown that the more rainforest is logged in the Amazon, the less precipitation reaches the area and so the lower the yield per hectare becomes. So despite the popular perception, there has been no economical advantage for Brazil from logging rainforest zones and converting these to pastoral fields.

The needs of soy farmers have been used to justify many of the controversial transportation projects that are currently developing in the Amazon. The first two highways successfully opened up the rainforest and led to increased settlement and deforestation. The mean annual deforestation rate from 2000 to 2005 (22,392 km2 or 8,646 sq mi per year) was 18% higher than in the previous five years (19,018 km2 or 7,343 sq mi per year). Although deforestation has declined significantly in the Brazilian Amazon between 2004 and 2014, there has been an increase to the present day.

Conservation and climate change

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Amazon rainforest

Environmentalists are concerned about loss of biodiversity that will result from destruction of the forest, and also about the release of the carbon contained within the vegetation, which could accelerate global warming. Amazonian evergreen forests account for about 10% of the world's terrestrial primary productivity 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.

One computer model of future climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions shows that the Amazon rainforest could become unsustainable under conditions of severely reduced rainfall and increased temperatures, leading to an almost complete loss of rainforest cover in the basin by 2100. However, simulations of Amazon basin climate change across many different models are not consistent in their estimation of any rainfall response, ranging from weak increases to strong decreases. The result indicates that the rainforest could be threatened though the 21st century by climate change in addition to deforestation.

In 1989, environmentalist C.M. Peters and two colleagues stated there is economic as well as biological incentive to protecting the rainforest. One hectare in the Peruvian Amazon has been calculated to have a value of $6820 if intact forest is sustainably harvested for fruits, latex, and timber; $1000 if clear-cut for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested); or $148 if used as cattle pasture.

As indigenous territories continue to be destroyed by deforestation and ecocide, such as in the Peruvian Amazon indigenous peoples' rainforest communities continue to disappear, while others, like the Urarina continue to struggle to fight for their cultural survival and the fate of their forested territories. Meanwhile, the relationship between non-human primates in the subsistence and symbolism of indigenous lowland South American peoples has gained increased attention, as have ethno-biology and community-based conservation efforts.

From 2002 to 2006, the conserved land in the Amazon rainforest has almost tripled and deforestation rates have dropped up to 60%. About 1,000,000 square kilometres (250,000,000 acres) have been put onto some sort of conservation, which adds up to a current amount of 1,730,000 square kilometres (430,000,000 acres).

A 2009 study found that a 4 °C rise in global temperatures by 2100 would kill 85% of the Amazon rainforest while a temperature rise of 3 °C would kill some 75% of the Amazon.

Gallery

Main article: Amazon Rainforest/Gallery

References

  1. [1]New7Wonders of Nature|World of New7Wonders