Some of the facts about the Amazon River, the Amazon Basin and the Amazon Rainforest should astound you. It is one of the most incredible areas on our planet, with some parts still untouched by the hand of modernity. It truly is a place of wonder in terms of geography, wildlife and civilization. Want to hear some facts about the Amazon? Please read on. Some of them will surprise you!
1. The Vast Majority of Our Food Came from the Rainforest
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about the Amazon that I found is that around 90% of the food that we eat today originally came from the depths of the rainforest. Think about it: chocolate, corn, bananas, rice and potatoes are just a few of the ingredients that we consume on a daily basis. The next time you’re sitting in a McDonald’s thinking about how American your hamburger is, consider which parts of it may actually have originated from the rainforest thousands of miles away!
2. We’re Destroying the Rainforest at an Alarming Rate
I know what you’re thinking – "I know that we’re destroying the rainforest." But did you realise how much of the Amazon rainforest we destroy every day? It’s about one and a half acres (just over 4,000 square metres) every second. That’s right: that’s almost the size of a football field every single second. Why? Simply because companies are moving in and want more space for fertile land. The saddest part is that the land that is being used for farming is not as fertile as other options, and within a few years farmers have to move on to new patches of land because they have used up the nutrients. And one of the most important things to know about the Amazon is that estimates claim that within 40 years, we may have destroyed the entire rainforest.
3. The Home of the Piranha
If you’ve seen the (terrible) Hollywood film, you’ll know all about piranhas. The Amazon River is filled with the deadly, flesh-eating fish. While not necessarily the least well-known facts about the Amazon River, it’s certainly one of the most frightening. You might also be interested to know that the anaconda snake is found in the shallower waters of the Amazon. When you consider that anacondas attack animals the size of goats, you might want to reconsider that adventure holiday!
4. The Amazon River is the Primary Mode of Transportation
While it may seem strange for North Americans and Europeans, who largely disposed of water-freight with the inventions of the railway and airplane, the Amazon River remains the primary mode of transportation in South American countries. The river is the second longest in the world (coming second only to the Nile), stretching through Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru, making it a great method of transportation and international trade. This is one of the facts about the Amazon River that most people in the Western world don’t understand, yet it’s completely true.
5. The Floor of the Rainforest is Pitch Black
When you think of South America, no doubt you think about the heat and sunshine. You might therefore be surprised to find out that the floor of the rainforest is almost pitch black, with the trees providing a canopy that lets just 1% of the sun's rays through their leaves and trunks.
6. There Are Lots of Small Rivers, Called Tributaries
If you think of the Mississippi River, you might think that it’s just one long body of water. You would be mistaken: it, like the Amazon, is made up of lots of smaller rivers, which are called tributaries. There are over 1,000 tributaries which run into the Amazon River, 17 of which are more than 1,500 km long – that’s about half the length of the Mississippi!
7. 25% of Our Medicines Are from the Rainforest
This is another of the things to know about the Amazon that I only learned while writing this. When you consider that a quarter of all Western medicines came from the rainforest, you might be even more inclined to support further research in the rainforest. Only 1% of the plants found in the Amazon rainforest have been scientifically tested for their medicinal properties – think about what cures might be sitting in the rainforest without us even knowing about them.
8. The Amazon Rainforest is the Oldest in the World
You might not be one to consider the age of a rainforest, but another of the facts about the Amazon Rainforest is that it’s the oldest in the world. The rainforest, while it cannot be accurately dated, it believed to date back around 100 million years.
9. The Basin Floods Every Year
Between the months of June and October, the Amazon River floods the basin. The areas of the rainforest are divided into three types: not flooded, occasionally flooded and regularly flooded, depending on how likely it is that the River’s waters will spread to that area.
I hope you enjoyed reading my facts about the Amazon and you agree it’s a wondrous place. Perhaps we should appreciate it more?