Amazon Swim (Martin Strel)
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The Amazon: The World´s Largest Rainforest

NEW (June 16, 2007): Amazon river "longer than Nile"!
Read the article about it.

The Amazon Basin

The Amazon River Basin is home to the largest rainforest on Earth. The basin - roughly the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States - covers some 40% of the South American continent and includes parts of eight South American countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname.

The Amazon Rainforest is not only the largest forest in the world - it is often called the "Lungs of the World". More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest. Rainforests are one of Earth’s oldest continuous ecosystems and play a significant part in the health of our global environment by digesting and converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Reflecting environmental conditions as well as past human influence, the Amazon is made up of a mosaic of ecosystems and vegetation types including rainforests, seasonal forests, deciduous forests, flooded forests, and savannas. The basin is drained by the Amazon River, the world´s largest river in terms of discharge, and just recently announced by BBC, the longest river in the world as well. The river is made up of over 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are longer than 1000 miles, and two of which (the Negro and the Madeira) are larger, in terms of volume, than the Zaire river. The river system is the lifeline of the forest and its history plays an important part in the development of its rainforests.

The Amazon River

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 more than 4,000 miles (6,436 km) 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 wide. The river is so deep that ocean liners can travel up its length to 2,300 miles inland. The Amazon River flows through the center of the rainforest and is fed by 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are more than 1,000 miles long. The Amazon is by far the largest watershed and largest river system in the world occupying over 6 million square kilometers. 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 it´s not unusual 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 human-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 runoff 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 freshwater system, it is not unusual that life beneath the water is as abundant and diverse as the surrounding rainforest´s plant and animal species. More than 2,000 species of fish have been identified in the Amazon Basin - more species than in the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Rainforest Destruction:

Industrial society has tended to see forests as free sources of valuable materials or as needless woods, occupying land and getting ´in the way´ of development. As a result of these pressures, every second the planet loses another two football fields of its precious rainforest cloak.

Rainforests are being destroyed worldwide for the profits they yield - mostly harvesting unsustainable resources like timber, for cattle and agriculture, and for subsistence cropping by rainforest inhabitants.

Many organizations have demonstrated that if the medicinal plants, fruits, nuts, oils and other resources like rubber, chocolate and chicle, were harvested sustainably - rainforest land has much more economic value than if timber were harvested or if it were burned down for cattle or farming operations.

Some facts:

The Amazon River has eleven times volume of the Mississippi River, and drains an area equivalent in size to the United States.

The Amazon´s daily freshwater discharge into the Atlantic is enough to supply New York City´s freshwater needs for nine years.

The force of the current - from sheer water volume alone - causes Amazon River water to continue flowing 125 miles out to sea before mixing with Atlantic salt water.

Many important new drugs are still awaiting to be discovered in this area - drugs for AIDS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer´s.

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.

Amazon Basin Information: