Amazonia is not only of extreme importance to Brazil, but the rest of the world
The Amazon rainforest, also know as Amazonia, is perhaps one of the more immediate landscapes that people associate with Brazil. From as early as primary school, children all over the world are taught that the Amazon rainforest represents much of what remains of the planet’s tropical vegetation. It is so significant, in fact, that in 2000 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
The forest stretches across nine countries—Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname—, but most of it (about 60%) occupies Brazilian territory.
More specifically in Brazil, the rainforest accounts for much of the northern states (Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Roraima, Pará, Rondônia and Tocantins) and some of the country’s Northeast and Central West (Maranhão, Mato Grosso and Goiás). As such it is home to Brazil’s most extensive natural biosphere, the Amazon biome, which accounts for almost half of the country’s total landmass.
Scholars believe that it was formed at least 50 million years ago and the region’s vegetation has evolved significantly over time as the result of several ice ages and all manner of atmospheric, climatic and terrestrial change. However, these shifts have contributed directly to the area’s vast biodiversity, considered to be the richest in the world, since subsequently many species were able to survive and thrive under these shifting conditions.
Oddly enough, Amazonian soil is lacking in nutrients and minerals. So, you might wonder, how can a forest of this magnitude have relatively infertile soil? Well, the answer is simple: equilibrium. The present ecosystem has reached an almost unbelievable level of perfection when it comes to nutrient absorption.
As if being the planet’s largest rainforest wasn’t enough, it also boasts the world’s largest river basin, home to the longest river in the world, the Amazon River, which flows from its source in Cordillera dos Andes to Peru, Colombia and finally Brazil, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Research suggests that the humans first settled in the forest about 10,000 years ago. Many indigenous peoples disappeared as of the sixteenth century, many were slain at the hands of early colonial settlers or fell victim to the diseases that these newcomers brought with them from mainland Europe. But, thankfully, their traditions persisted and today many play an important role in modern-day Brazilian culture, especially in the North.
But the most striking aspect of Amazonia is its colossal biodiversity. The fauna and flora are unequalled and subject to research and academic study led by specialist teams from across the globe, as they seek to uncover the mysteries of the tens of thousands of species of plants and animals that make this habitat their home.
Even with all these carefully choreographed efforts to catalogue and identify life in the rainforest, there is still much unknown about the species that live there. Some of the most renowned inhabitants are the jaguar, the puma, the macaw, the Amazonian blue, the toucan and the alligator, while the best-known plants are bromeliad, jatobá, cupuaçu, graviola and guarana.
This boundless biodiversity is the pillar that guarantees the essential ecological balance of the region, not only of the forest itself, but also of other nearby biomes and even local agriculture, which depends on natural pollinating agents for the production cycle of food and grains. Furthermore, the presence of these agents contributes to the propagation of the most varied species of plants, hence mitigating any future danger of extinction.
Another vital impact of the forest relates to its trees. They release an overwhelming amount of water in vapour form, enough to supply the lower half of the country with sufficient rain, as well as several neighbouring countries, including Argentina and Uruguay. Besides the obvious benefits of such precipitation, these rains help propel hydroelectric plants, the output of which is used to power a nation.
The Amazon region, above all, serves as important climate catalyst, especially when we consider the notion of climate change in today’s world. The forest’s plants ultimately help regulate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, promoting cleaner, fresher air.
Sustainable ecotourism and conscious extractivism are two modern-day practices that seek to curb deforestation and supersede any other damaging activities. By employing the local inhabitants, for example, it becomes easier to assess natural impacts whilst still generating revenue for the area, which can then be reinvested to help support the local region and educate both the tourists and the locals alike.