Ecology and History of the Amazon Rain Forest

The Amazon rain forest houses the Amazon River and rich ecological biodiversity. Taking up the majority of Brazil, the Amazon’s biology and ecology is truly unique.

Amazon’s Unique Ecology

Despite its moist, humid conditions and massive growth across Brazil, much of the Amazon rainforest sits upon very poor soil. In The Central Amazon Floodplain: Ecology of a Pulsing System, Wolfgang J. Junk explains that the top two inches of soil contain 99% of the nutrients. The forest floor must be like a sponge to maintain minerals and nutrients throughout heavy rainfalls.

He goes on to talk about the incredible diversity of plants, animals and insects that thrive in these unique conditions. One in five birds lives in the Amazon. More than a thousand species of frogs can be found in the Amazon basin. A single square mile may contain as many as 50,000 insects. The Amazon has few large animals; only about 800 different types.

Amazon History

Such a large system has a deep history. About 15 million years ago, the Amazon River flowed west. Over the course of time, Earth’s tectonic plates broke apart and the South American plate shifted into another plate, creating the Andes Mountain Range. At this point the Amazon could no longer flow into the Pacific Ocean and backed up, creating an area of freshwater pools and lakes. About 10 million years ago the massive river found its way east to the ocean.
Climate Change and the Amazon

Today the Amazon produces 20% of the Earth’s oxygen. Sadly, according to many studies, the Amazon is disappearing at a rate of about 52,000 sq kilometers per year. This large and unique forest is one of the biggest victims of biopiracy, despite Brazil’s strict environment-protection laws.The full value of the giant Amazon forest to the planet and humans is not even fully known. For instance, 25% of prescription medications were found in the Amazon rainforests, yet scientists have only tested 1% of the plants. The lush super forest holds many secrets we have yet to discover.

Sources

Anderson, Lykke E., et al, (2002) The Dynamics of Deforestation and Economic Growth in the Brazilian Amazon Cambridge: University Press

Public Broadcasting Service (www.pbs.org © 1995-2006) “Enter Into Amazonia”. Content Provided by Dr. Michael J. Balick. Retrieved May 1, 2006, from the World Wide Web: http://www.pbs.org/journeyintoamazonia/site.html

Jordan, C.F., (1989) An Amazon Rain Forest: The Structure and Function of a Nutrient Stressed Ecosystem and the Impact of Slash-and-Burn Agriculture. France, UK, & USA: Parthenon Publishing Group & United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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Tags: Amazon river, , Rain Forest

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3 Comments on “Ecology and History of the Amazon Rain Forest”

  • AndrewBoldman wrote on 4 June, 2009, 15:01

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  • Angel wrote on 5 June, 2009, 1:14

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