The Amazon Rainforest is the single largest remaining tropical rainforest on the planet. And not only does this Amazon jungle play a critical role in stabilizing our world’s climate, but it also houses at least 10% of the Earth’s known biodiversity, and among these are thousands of endangered flora and fauna. Read on to discover 50 spectacular facts about the magnificent Amazon Rainforest.
Fact 1: The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s biggest rainforest!
- In fact, it’s larger than the next 2 biggest rainforests combined: the Indonesian and Congo Basin.
Fact 2: At 6.9 million square kilometers, the Amazon Basin is roughly the size of 48 contiguous United States’ states.
- The rainforest’s immense size covers around 40% of the South American continent.
Fact 3: The Amazon Rainforest, when defined geographically includes the rainforest in the Guianas, which lies outside the Amazon Basin.
- Overall, the Amazon jungle covers an area of 7.8-8.2 million square km, however, only 80% of it is forested.
Fact 4: The Amazon river is arguably the longest river in the world at 6,992 km.
- It contains more water than the Nile, Mississippi, and the Yangtze rivers combined.
Fact 5: The Amazon River is by far the world’s largest river by volume too.
- The river has over 1,100 tributaries (small streams), 17 of which are over 1000 miles in length.
Fact 6: The Amazon is home to 16,000 species of trees.
- That’s roughly around 390 billion individual trees in the whole area!
Fact 7: Geologists discovered that the Amazon River once flowed West-ward into the Pacific Ocean, over 100 million years ago.
- The rise of the Andes, and the linkage of the Brazilian and Guiana bedrock shields, blocked the river and caused it to flow into the Atlantic Ocean instead.
Fact 8: The name ‘Amazon’ was coined by the Spanish explorer Francisco Orellana.
- He chose this name after he was attacked by female warriors named the Icamiabas, or ‘women without husbands’, he compared them to the Amazons of Greek mythology.
Fact 9: The Amazon river is responsible for delivering 55 million gallons of water into the Atlantic Ocean every second.
- That equates to around 83 Olympic sized swimming pools every second.
Fact 10: The Amazon jungle produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen.
- This earned the jungle its nickname, “the lungs of the planet”.
Fact 11: If the ‘Amazon’ were a country, it would be the 9th largest in the world.
- No surprise considering the basin measures in at a whopping 2.5 million square miles.
Fact 12: 25% of all Western pharmaceuticals come from rainforest based ingredients.
- Interestingly, less than 1% of the trees and plants in the Amazon have been studied and tested by scientists.
Fact 13: The Amazon river’s basin covers around 40% of South America.
- A basin is an area of land that drains its water into a river.
Fact 14: Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon Rainforest lies in Brazil.
- Sadly, the conversion of some parts of the forest into cattle lands in Brazil has negatively affected the Amazon jungle’s productivity.
Fact 15: The Amazon Rainforest is home to around 2.5 million species of insects.
- More than half of these species are thought to live in the forest’s canopy.
Fact 16: 70% of South America’s GDP is produced in areas that receive rainfall or water from the Amazon Rainforest.
- The Amazon influences rainfall patterns in countries as far away as the United States.
Fact 17: Sadly, cattle ranching accounts for roughly 70% of deforestation in the Amazon.
- More than 60% of lands cleared end up as pastures, most of which have low productivity.
Fact 18: On the bright side, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has been declining since 2004.
- This was mainly due to various reasons including the development of new protected areas, improved law enforcement, deforestation monitoring via satellite, pressure from environmental groups, and private sector initiatives.
Fact 19: The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 3,000 types of fruit.
- However, only 200 of these fruits are sold and consumed in the Western world.
Fact 20: Over 80% of the world’s diet comes from the Amazon Rainforest.
- That includes coffee, chocolate, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, black pepper, pineapples and corn.
Fact 21: One hectare of the rainforest houses more than 750 types of tree, and 1,500 types of plant.
- It’s estimated that there are about 900 tons of living plants per hectare in the Amazon jungle.
Fact 22: The Amazon Rainforest’s total land area encompasses 9 South American countries.
- These are Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and the Three Guianas.
Fact 23: The Amazon Rainforest is so dense that it makes the jungle floor very dark.
- The forest’s thick canopies only allow 1% of sunlight to pass through.
Fact 24: The Brazilian Amazon has been the site of a number of innovative and ambitious conservation experiments.
- This ranges from Jurisdictional Commodity Certification to indigenous-led ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation’ (REDD+) projects. It has even been the centre for Norway’s billion-dollar, performance-based payment for cutting deforestation projects.
Fact 25: Although deforestation has slowed in recent years, the Amazon Rainforest is still disappearing at a rate of 1.5 acres every second.
- At this rate, the Amazon jungle will be completely destroyed within 40 years.
Fact 26: The Amazon river’s most fearsome residents are the Bull Sharks.
- These fierce predators are capable of acclimatizing to different levels of salinity, to a point that there’s even a thriving population of them swimming in the river.
Fact 27: The Amazon Basin was formed in the Paleozoic period somewhere between 500 and 200 million years ago.
- The extreme age of the region, in geologic terms, has much to do with the relative infertility of the rainforest soil as well as its unique plant and animal life.
Fact 28: Surprisingly, agricultural activities are not sustainable in the Amazon Rainforest.
- The region has mostly infertile soils that cannot support crops for a long period of time, which is a significant reason why those living in the forest have to move often.
Fact 29: The toucan is the loudest creature in the Amazon Rainforest.
- This arboreal fruit-eating bird’s brilliantly coloured feathers help it to camouflage in the tropical jungle.
Fact 30: A 3℃ rise in temperature will likely destroy 75% of the Amazon Rainforest.
- Climate change experts have already warned that global temperature increases will kill the rainforest within 100 years.
Fact 31: The Amazon Rainforest depends on a continuous supply of dust from the Sahara Desert for fertilization.
- Phosphorous is an essential nutrient that acts as a fertilizer. The phosphorus dust is blown from the Sahara Desert over the Atlantic Ocean by wind, allowing the rainforest to flourish.
Fact 32: Martin Strel holds the Guinness World Record for swimming the entire 5,268m length of the Amazon River, he did this in 66 days.
- Strel was the first man to swim from the headwaters in Peru to the Brazilian port city of Belem.
Fact 33: In the past year, the Amazon Rainforest has already lost approximately 20% of its size due to deforestation.
- All of it started with the controversial Trans-Amazonian Highway. This gave rise to destructive actions such as illegal hunting of wildlife, and clearing of interior forest areas for farming and settling squatters.
Fact 34: The Kapok tree is the tallest tree in the Amazon Rainforest.
- It can grow up to a height of 200ft, thus towering over the jungle’s vegetation.
Fact 35: The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3000 plants that could be used to fight against cancer cells, 70% of these plants are found in the Rainforest.
- Consequently, 25 % of the active ingredients in today’s cancer-fighting drugs come from organisms found only in the Rainforest.
Fact 36: According to the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), about 9% of the Amazon Rainforest’s population is still made up of indigenous people.
- Among these are 350 different ethnic groups, more than 60 of which still remain largely isolated.
Fact 37: On 26 September 2006, Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907, a Boeing 737-800, collided with an Embraer Legacy above the Amazon Rainforest, killing 154 people.
- Although the jet landed safely, flight 1907 lost control, broke up in mid-air, and crashed into the Amazon, killing all of its passengers.
Fact 38: Electric eels, living in the Amazon river, can produce an electric shock that can stun or kill a horse.
- Electric eels can generate enough electrical charge, up to 600 volts, to stun prey and keep predators at bay.
Fact 39: Just like in movies, Piranhas living in the Amazon river are known to bite and injure humans.
- In fact, in February 2016, Piranhas attacked swimmers in Brazil, leaving 50 people injured.
Fact 40: The Jaguar is considered the protector, and the symbol of power in the Amazon Rainforest.
- Jaguars personify the mysterious beauty of the Amazon and play a vital role in controlling other species’ populations, thus helping maintain the rainforest ecosystem’s health.
Fact 41: On average, scientists discover 1 new species in the Amazon Rainforest every other day.
- However, rare and endangered species in the rainforest are under constant threat of habitat destruction.
Fact 42: The Amazon suffered its worst droughts in 2005 and 2010.
- Long dry spells withered crops, decimated fisheries and lead to forest fires, which resulted in significant shifts in the ecosystem and loss of species’.
Fact 43: Sadly, about 35 species of animals in the Amazon Rainforest become extinct every day.
- In order to save more animals in the Amazon Rainforest, we could start by not destroying their homes. For example, if we used less wood and paper we could save trees, which in turn would save the home of a particular animal.
Fact 44: You can find the world’s largest lily, the Giant Water Lily (Victoria amazonica) floating around in the slow-moving tributaries of the Amazon River.
- The lily’s leaves can measure up to 3 meters across, and can support the weight of a small child, if the weight is evenly distributed.
Fact 45: Surprisingly, you won’t find any bridges crossing the Amazon River.
- This is quite a surprise given that the Amazon River is the largest river in the world today, and is even greater than the next 7 largest rivers combined.
Fact 46: The Amazon jungle in Peru has the greatest butterfly biodiversity in the world, with more than 4,000 native species.
- That’s worlds away from Europe’s 400 butterfly species count.
Fact 47: Pesticides, used in farming in the Amazon Rainforest, end up in rivers killing scores of fish.
- This is alarming since more species of fish are found in the Amazon Rainforest than in the entire Atlantic Ocean.
Fact 48: Commonly known predators in the Amazon are the Jaguar, Anaconda, Caiman and the small but deadly Poison Dart Frog.
- The most poisonous species of the poison dart frog is the Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis), which has enough toxins to kill 10-20 men or about 10,000 mice at once.
Fact 49: The Amazon Rainforest is home to the Pink Dolphin, also known as the Amazon River Dolphin.
- The Pink Dolphin can grow to more than 6 feet in length, making it one of the largest freshwater dolphins on the planet.
Fact 50: A number of animals in the Amazon Rainforest face the threat of illegal capture and to being sold for ‘pet trade’.
- A prime example of this is the Scarlet Macaw, which is a beautiful bird that often gets caught and sold on the black market.