The AMAZON BASIN is the part of
South America drained by the Amazon
River and its tributaries. The Amazon drainage basin covers an area of
about 7,500,000 km2 (2,900,000 sq mi), or roughly 40 percent of the
South American continent. It is located in the countries of
Most of the basin is covered by the
Amazon Rainforest , also known as
Amazonia. With a 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi) area of dense
tropical forest , this is the largest rainforest in the world.
* 1 Geography
* 2 Plant life
* 3 Animal life
* 3.1 Mammals
* 3.2 Birds
* 3.3 Reptiles
* 3.4 Amphibians
* 3.6 Insects
Climate and seasons
* 5 Human lifestyle
* 6 River commerce
* 7 Agriculture
* 8 Languages
* 9 See also
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links
Amazon River rises in the
Andes Mountains at the west of the
basin with its main tributary the
Marañón River in Peru. It is
usually considered to be the second longest river in the world .
However, a team of Brazilian scientists has claimed that the Amazon is
the longest river in the world. It covers about 6,400 km before
draining into the
Atlantic Ocean . The Amazon and its tributaries form
the largest volume of water. The Amazon accounts for about 20% of the
total water carried to the oceans by rivers. Some of the Amazon
rainforests are deforested because of the increasing of cattle ranches
and soy beans field.
The highest point in the watershed of the Amazon is the peak of
Yerupajá at 6,635 m (21,768 ft).
Amazon basin formerly flowed west to
Pacific Ocean until the
Andes formed, causing the basin to flow eastward towards the Atlantic
Politically the basin is divided into the Brazilian
Amazônia Legal ,
Peruvian Amazon , the Amazon region of
Colombia and parts of
Ecuador and the Venezuelan state of Amazonas .
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Aerial view of part of the Amazon rainforest.
Plant growth is dense and its variety of animal inhabitants is
comparatively high due to the heavy rainfall and the dense and
extensive evergreen and coniferous forests . Little sunlight reaches
the ground due to the dense roof canopy by plants. The ground remains
dark and damp and only shade tolerant vegetation will grow here.
Orchids and bromeliads exploit trees and other plants to get closer to
the sunlight. They grow hanging onto the branches or tree trunks with
aerial roots , not as parasites but as epiphytes . Species of tropical
trees native to the Amazon include
Brazil nut , rubber tree and Assai
More than 1,400 species of mammals are found in the Amazon, the
majority of which are species of bats and rodents . Its larger mammals
include the jaguar , ocelot , capybara and
South American tapir .
Birds of the Amazon
About 1500 bird species inhabit the Amazon Basin. The biodiversity
of the Amazon and the sheer number of diverse bird species is given by
the number of different bird families that reside in these humid
forests. An example of such would be the cotinga family, to which the
Guianan cock-of-the-rock belong. Birds such as toucans , and
hummingbirds are also found here. Macaws are famous for gathering by
the hundreds along the clay cliffs of the Amazon River. In the western
Amazon hundreds of macaws and other parrots descend to exposed river
banks to consume clay on an almost daily basis, the exception being
The green anaconda inhabits the shallow waters of the Amazon and the
emerald tree boa and boa constrictor live in the Amazonian tree tops.
Many reptiles species are illegally collected and exported for the
international pet trade. Live animals are the fourth largest commodity
in the smuggling industry after drugs, diamonds, and weapons.
More than 1,000 species of amphibians swim and are found in the
Amazon. Unlike temperate frogs which are mostly limited to habitats
near water, tropical frogs are most abundant in the trees and
relatively few are found near bodies of water on the forest floor. The
reason for this occurrence is quite simple: frogs must always keep
their skin moist since almost half of their respiration in carried out
through their skin. The high humidity of the rainforest and frequent
rainstorms gives tropical frogs infinitely more freedom to move into
the trees and escape the many predators of rainforest waters. The
differences between temperate and tropical frogs extend beyond their
Red-bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri_) is a
species of piranha . This species lives in the
Amazon River basin,
coastal rivers of northeastern Brazil, and the basins of the Paraguay
, Paraná and Essequibo Rivers .
About 2,500 fish species are known from the
Amazon basin and it is
estimated that more than 1,000 additional undescribed species exist.
This is more than any other river basin on Earth, and Amazonia is the
center of diversity for Neotropical fishes . About 45% (more than
1,000 species) of the known Amazonian fish species are endemic to the
basin. The remarkable species richness can in part be explained by
the large differences between the various parts of the Amazon basin,
resulting in many fish species that are endemic to small regions. For
example, fauna in clearwater rivers differs from fauna in white and
blackwater rivers , fauna in slow moving sections show distinct
differences compared to that in rapids , fauna in small streams differ
from that in major rivers, and fauna in shallow sections show distinct
differences compared to that in deep parts. By far the most diverse
orders in the Amazon are
Characiformes (43% of total fish species in
the Amazon) and
Siluriformes (39%), but other groups with many species
Cichlidae (6%) and
The Amazon supports very large fisheries, including well-known
species of large catfish (such as _
Brachyplatystoma _, which perform
long breeding migrations up the Amazon), arapaima and tambaqui , and
is also home to many species that are important in the aquarium trade
, such as the oscar , discus , angelfish , _Corydoras_ catfish and
neon tetra . Although the true danger they represent often is greatly
Amazon basin is home to several feared fish species
such as piranhas (including the famous red-bellied ), electric eel ,
river stingrays and candiru . Several cavefish species in the genus
Phreatobius _ are found in the Amazon, as is the cave-dwelling
Astroblepus pholeter _ in the far western part of the basin (Andean
region). The Tocantins basin, arguably not part of the Amazon basin,
has several other cavefish species. The deeper part of the major
Amazonian rivers are always dark and a few species have adaptions
similar to cavefish (reduced pigement and eyes). Among these are the
Compsaraia _ and _
Orthosternarchus _, some _
whale catfish (especially _C. oliveirai_), some _
Xyliphius _ and
Micromyzon _ banjo catfish, and the loricariid catfish _Loricaria
spinulifera_, _L. pumila_, _
Peckoltia pankimpuju _, _Panaque
bathyphilus _ and _
Panaqolus nix_ (these five also occur in "normal"
forms of shallower waters). The perhaps most unusual habitat used
by Amazonian fish is land. The splash tetra is famous for laying its
eggs on plants above water, keeping them moist by continuously
splashing on them, the
South American lungfish can survive
underground in a mucous cocoon during the dry season, some small
rivulid killifish can jump over land between water sources (sometimes
moving relatively long distances, even uphill) and may deliberately
jump onto land to escape aquatic predators, and an undescribed
species of worm-like _Phreatobius_ catfish lives in waterlogged leaf
litter near (not in) streams.
Some of the major fish groups of the
Amazon basin include:
Gymnotiformes : Neotropical electric fishes
Characiformes : characins, tetras and relatives
Potamotrygonidae : river stingrays
Arapaimidae : bonytongues
Loricariidae : suckermouth catfishes
Callichthyidae : armored catfishes
Pimelodidae : pimelodid catfishes
Trichomycteridae : pencil catfishes
Auchenipteridae : driftwood catfishes
Cichlinae : pike cichlids, peacock cichlids and
Geophaginae : Eartheaters and Neotropical dwarf cichlid
Poeciliinae : guppies and relatives
See also: List of butterflies of the
Amazon River basin and the Andes
More than 90% of the animal species in the Amazon are insects , of
which about 40% are beetles (Coleoptera constituting almost 25% of all
known types of animal life-forms ).
Whereas all of
Europe has some 321 butterfly species, the Manú
National Park in
Peru (4000 hectare-survey) has 1300 species, while
Tambopata National Reserve (5500 hectare-survey) has at least 1231
CLIMATE AND SEASONS
Amazon River basin has a low-water season, and a wet season
during which, the rivers flood the adjacent, low-lying forests. The
climate of the basin is generally hot and humid . In some areas,
however, the winter months (June–September) can bring cold snaps,
Antarctic winds travelling along the adjacent
range. Such cold conditions can be devastating for some of the
region's tropical plant and animal species.
A floating village in
Amazonia is sparsely populated . There are scattered settlements
inland, but most of the population lives in a few larger cities on the
banks of the Amazon and other major rivers, such as in
Iquitos , Peru
Brazil ). In many regions, the forest has
been cleared for soya bean plantations and ranching (the most
extensive non-forest use of the land); some of the inhabitants harvest
wild rubber latex , and
Brazil nuts . This is a form of extractive
farms, where the trees are not cut down. These are relatively
sustainable operations in contrast to lumbering or agriculture
dependent on clearing the rainforest.
The largest organization fighting for the indigenous peoples in this
area is COICA . It is a supra organization encompassing all indigenous
rights organizations working in the
Amazon basin area, and covers the
people living in several countries.
The river is the principal path of transportation for people and
produce in the regions, with transport ranging from balsa rafts and
dugout canoes to hand built wooden river craft and modern steel hulled
Seasonal floods excavate and redistribute nutrient-rich silt onto
beaches and islands, enabling dry-season riverside agriculture of
rice, beans, and corn on the river's shoreline without the addition of
fertilizer, with additional slash and burn agriculture on higher
floodplains. Fishing provides additional food year round, and
free-range chickens need little or no food beyond what they can forage
Charcoal made largely from forest and shoreline deadfall is
produced for use in urban areas. Exploitation of bush meat ,
particularly deer and turtles is common. _
increased road-building bring human encroachment upon wild areas,
increased resource extraction and threats to biodiversity .
Extensive deforestation , particularly in
Brazil , is leading to the
extinction of known and unknown species, reducing biological diversity
and adversely impacting soil, water, and air quality. A final part of
the deforestation process is the large-scale production of charcoal
for industrial processes such as steel manufacturing. Soils within the
region are generally shallow and cannot be used for more than a few
seasons without the addition of imported fertilizers and chemicals.
The most widely spoken language in the Amazon is Portuguese ,
followed closely by Spanish . On the Brazilian side Portuguese is
spoken by at least 98% of the population, whilst in the
Spanish-speaking countries a large number of speakers of indigenous
languages are present, though Spanish is predominant.
There are hundreds of native languages still spoken in the Amazon,
most of which are spoken by only a handful of people, and thus are
critically endangered . One of the more widely spoken indigenous
languages in the Amazon is Nheengatu , which descends from the ancient
Tupi language , originally spoken in the coastal and central regions
of Brazil. It was brought to its present location along the Rio Negro
by Brazilian colonizers who, until the mid-17th century, primarily
used Tupi rather than the official Portuguese to communicate. Besides
modern Nheengatu, other languages of the Tupi family are spoken there,
along with other language families like
Jê , Arawak , Karib , Arawá
Matsés and others.
* Geography portal
Earth sciences portal
Latin America portal
Amazon Conservation Association
Amazon Conservation Team
Deforestation of the
* Jaguars south of the
Llanos de Moxos
Llanos de Moxos (archaeology)
Panthera onca onca
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