Nowadays, when many people think “amazon,” they think of the website. But the real Amazon, which takes up more than half of Brazil and about 40% of South America, is obviously much more important. And it’s also a million times more interesting…
So what is the Amazon?
Existent for at least 55 million years, the Amazon is basically a massive forest that covers 1.7 billion acres; a floresta tropical (or rainforest) makes up 1.4 billion acres. It is spread out throughout nine countries, but the majority of the forest is in Brazil.
The Amazon comprises more than half of world’s remaining rainforests, and it boasts the largest tropical rainforest in the world, with the highest number of animal and plant species on earth. Half of all species on earth live in the Amazon.
Another fun fact: most of the dust that fertilizes the rainforest is windblown across the Atlantic all the way from the Sahara desert.
It also supplies 1/5 of the Earth’s fresh water. The amount of freshwater that the Amazon river releases into the Atlantic each day is enough to provide for all of New York City for nine years. Think about that next time you sip your Evian!
The first humans to inhabit the Amazon came at least 11,200 years ago. It’s believed that in AD 1500, about six million people lived in the region. Since then, the population has dropped drastically; there are now about a million people living in the Amazon. Still quite a lot!
While many think of the Amazon as being pure, untouched wilderness, a large part has actually been formed from these humans who occupied the region for many centuries; for instance, recently people have actually unearthed what were once roads, bridges and plazas.
An array of species
And of course…one of the most amazing parts of the Amazon is that it is composed of about 2.5 million different types of insects, tens of thousands of plants, and around 2,000 birds and mammals. Just to give you an idea, so far, at least 4,000 plant species, 2,200 fish, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians and 378 reptiles have been discovered from the Amazon. Furthermore, one in five of all bird species in the world can be found in the Amazon, as well as one in five of all fish species.
All of this wonderful diversity also makes it a very dangerous place for humans to explore. With animals like the jaguar, cougar, anaconda, piranha and vampire bats and bugs that carry malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever, it’s a miracle that the Amazon was once a home to entire civilizations!