The Amazon Ecosystem

Essay by rooster25University, Bachelor's June 2006

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The Amazon is a region of superlatives, it spans the borders of eight countries; it is the world's largest river basin and the source of one-fifth of the Earth's freshwater; it has the world's highest diversity of birds and freshwater fish; it is the planet's largest and most luxuriant rainforest in which, amazingly, live more than one third of all species in the world. But despite its natural richness, the Amazon ecosystem is fragile and in peril. In Brazil, for instance, illegal logging, slash-and-burn agriculture and other human impacts are consuming the forest at the rate of over 9,000 square miles per year (WWF, 2005).

More than one third of all species in the world live in the Amazon, a giant tropical forest with an area that stretches more than 1.5 million square miles and is among the richest tropical forests in the world. High rainfall, relatively complex topography, and varied soils also contribute to the variety and abundance of life within the forest.

The Amazon forest has some 2,500 tree species, which are one third of the world's tropical woods and nearly 30,000 of Latin America's 100,000 plant species. A large percentage of this remarkable region's original forested area is still intact, with lowland tropical moist forests, unique flooded savannas dotted with palm trees, and bamboo-dominated forests blanketing an area the size of England. Together they support the world's highest diversity of freshwater fish, birds, and butterflies, as well as many other kinds of organisms (WWF, 2005).

The Amazon Basin is the largest river basin in the world, covering close to 2.2 million square miles. The Amazon River, the second longest river in the world after the Nile; stretches 4,000 miles across South America to the Atlantic Ocean, where it discharges approximately 46,000 gallons per second, or 20 percent...