Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Brazilian rainforest of Amazonia, the largest in the world, was originally covered by more than 5,000,000 km² (2 million square miles) of dense tropical forest. For centuries, this has protected the area and the animals residing in it. But over the past 30 years the Brazilian government has transformed Amazonia into factory sites and settlements by sponsoring road projects, colonization schemes, and industrial developments.
The river basin
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world. With its more than 1,000 tributaries, the Amazon River network encompasses almost half of South America. The Amazon itself is 6,516 km (4,050 miles) long. Only the Nile River is longer. Its total drainage basin is nearly as large as the entire United States. The Amazon Basin has a very warm and humid climate. It rains almost 200 days of the year, and per year rainfall exceeds 2,000 mm (80 inches). The flow of the river into the sea is about 10 times the flow of the Mississippi and 56 times the flow of the Nile, about 1.8 million m³/s (28 billion gallons per minute).
we affect the Amazon River almost 1,000 km (600 miles) inland because of the shallow gradient. An interesting fact is that the river delta is so large that it splits into channels around numerous islands. One island, Marajo, is as big as New Hampshire and Vermont combined.
Amazonia is not heavily populated. There are a few cities along the Amazon's banks and scattered settlements inland, but most of the population lives in cities. The forest has been cleared in areas for plantations and ranching (the most extensive non-forest use of the land) and some of the inhabitants harvest wild latex and Brazil nuts. Though a substantial area of the Amazon basin has been cleared, most of the rain forest remains relatively undisturbed by humans.
Flora and fauna
Not all of the plant and animal life of Amazonia are known because of its hugely unexplored areas. No one knows how many species of fish there are in the river either. Some have estimated close to 2,000 though. Some of the famous Amazon animals that reside here are the electric eel, the piranha, and the anaconda. The small percentage of plants and animals know to science have produced valuable foods, medicine, and commercial products.
The rain forest in the Amazon Basin is under threat from logging, the clearing of land for farms and ranches, and water pollution.
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