The Amazon Rainforest

Amazon Rainforest Tree FrogThe Amazon Rainforest is a moist broad leaf forest that covers nearly the entire Amazon river basin which makes it the single largest stretch of rainforest in the world, accounting for more than half of the entire natural rainforest on the earth. The river basin itself covers around seven million square kilometres or 1.7 billion acres, and five and a half million square kilometres or 1.4 billion acres is made up of pure, dense rainforest. If you want a really good idea of exactly how enormous this is, nine different countries have a significant portion of their land mass covered by the rainforest.

The rainforest was probably formed during the Eocene epoch, which lasted from about 56 to 34 million years ago. In short, this is an OLD rainforest, much of which is around 55 million years old. It appeared just when the Atlantic Ocean had widened enough to provide a warm, moist climate to the Amazon basin, just the right conditions for a tropical rainforest. It was thanks to this rich moisture that the Amazon remained a mostly a rainforest and stayed free of Savannah-type biomes for most of its life. Thanks to this little bit of luck, The Amazon rainforest was short-listed in 2008 as a potential natural wonder of the world by the New 7 Wonders of Nature by the New 7 wonders of the World Foundation.

But sadly, one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second, simply because countries, not just developing ones but developed ones as well see them as nothing more than a gigantic matchstick factory. Many indigenous tribes are also being forced to move into urban settings or perish. Once upon a time 10 million native Americans roamed in the dense Amazonian rainforests, today only about 200,000 are left.

Did you know that along with the oceans the Amazonian rainforests are the world’s biggest recycling unit for converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. About 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest, it doesn’t matter whether you are from the USA or the UK or Australia or China, 20 percent all your oxygen needs are taken care of by the Amazon. That’s the reason why they are called the lungs of the world.

One-fifth of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon Basin alone. This in turn supports one of the richest biodiversities on the planet. 25 percent of all western pharmaceuticals are derived straight from rainforest plants. And another little fact about rainforest species - Around 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every single day due to rainforest destruction. Amazon Rainforest StreamThis number rounds off to approximately 50,000 species a year. Natives have been living in the Amazon for thousands of years and know the region as well as you would know the city or town or wherever the place you live. Medicine men, or shaman go a little further, they know the medicinal properties of possibly every single living creature around them, since many native youngsters are actually eager to move into cities most of the shamans left are in their 70s and don’t have anyone to pass on their knowledge to. Every time a shaman dies without passing on his knowledge, it is like another Library of Alexandria getting burnt to ashes, all of it’s knowledge being lost forever, especially since we rarely know anything at all about the 137 species which go extinct every day, all of them might be potential cures for cancer or AIDS or some other life threatening disease – 50,000 potential cures lost every year.

Could you imagine a world without tomatoes, black pepper, vanilla or Chocolate? None of these everyday treats would exist if not for the rainforests and hundreds, if not thousands more pleasure foods might be waiting to be discovered in rainforests, so no one can claim that they are unaffected by the loss of the Amazon Rainforest.

At this point the problems won’t go away even if we can somehow manage to curb deforestation, there needs to be a way to recover and maintain biodiversity because it the biodiversity of the Amazon is lost, then eventually the whole forest itself will be destroyed – this is the greatest of mankind’s crimes of greed. So many species are lost at such a break neck speed that there is no way of telling how the food web will be affected, it might be years before the full force of what we have done might be fully felt.

But, thankfully, there is still hope. If left intact, the Amazon Rainforest seems to be strong enough to regenerate and even recover to a certain extent. The beauty of this is that there would still be very lucrative business prospects in these forests in the form of gathering nuts, fruits and other renewable forest products, which is far more beneficial than outright destruction of the forest.