Planet Earth’s Greatest River
The Mighty Amazon Drains Almost an Entire Continent
by Jose Pedraza, age 14
The Amazon River, located in South America, is home to hundreds of creatures and people. The earliest inhabitants of the Amazonia region arrived 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, following the great migration across the Bering Strait.
The Amazon is the largest river in the world. By the time the waters reach their destination in the Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon has covered a distance of 4,000 miles. More than 1,000 named tributaries contribute to this mighty river. The river drains 60 percent of Brazil, more than half of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and much of Ecuador. Principal cities located along the Amazon are: Belem, Macapa, Porto Velho, Manaus, and Iquios.
Forests in the Amazon region are richly populated with many diverse life forms. They are home to more than 300 mammal species and up to 2,000 kinds of birds. There are an estimated 2,000 fish species in the Amazon. Most of them are still not catalogued.
The populations of insect species in the region are not calculable. Some estimates go as high as 30 million. As for the tree population, there are around 2,500 different species, and about 60,000 distinct plants. The three main rainforests along the Amazon are called the varzea, the igappo and the terra firme.
The Amazon’s biodiversity is threatened by market forces. Human efforts to cut down parts of the rain forest to start cattle ranching, oil drilling, and soybean productions are common. As countries within the Amazon basin integrate into the global economy, and demand for limited natural resources increases, there is a loss of biodiversity. There is also a decrease in quality of life for the people.
To maintain biodiversity in the Amazon region, experts say sustainable systems need to be put in place. Careful efforts to watch over human development and protect natural resources are also necessary.
[Sources: Amazonia The Land The wildlife The River The People; World Wildlife Foundation]