Amazon Basin

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Central & South American Geography

Amazon River basin
Amazon River basin

The Amazon Basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries.

Geographic Studies

The amazon river basin is located in brazil.The South American rain forest of Amazonian (60% located in Brazil), the largest in the world, was originally covered by more than 7,000,000 km² (2 million square miles) of dense tropical forest. For centuries, this has protected the area and the animals residing in it. Forest recession has occurred in the past 30 years due to increased industry and population growth through road projects, settlement initiatives, and industrial development. Dramatic Forest recession is visible via satalite.

Plant life

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. Dense plant growth because the rainfall and regrowth of leaves occur gradually throughout each year. Huge Diversity of tree species but usually have smooth, straight trunks and large leaves.

Amazonian Indigenous Peoples

The Amazon Basin includes a diversity of traditional inhabitants as well as biodiversity in both flora and fauna. These peoples have lived in the rain forest for thousands of years, and their lifestyles and cultures are well-adapted to this environment. Contrary to popular belief, their subsistence living methods do not significantly harm the environment. In the past few decades, the real threat to the Amazon Basin has been deforestation and cattle ranching by large transnational corporations.


The Amazon basin has been continuously inhabited for over 12,000 years, since the first proven arrivals of human beings in South America. Those peoples, when found by European explorers in the 16th century, were scattered in hundreds of small tribes with no writing system except for the part ruled by the Inca Empire. Perhaps as many as 90% of the inhabitants died due to European diseases within the first hundred years of contact, many tribes perished even before direct contact with Europeans, as their germs traveled faster than explorers, contaminating village after village.

Upon the European discovery of America, the Portuguese and the Spanish signed the Treaty of Fusillades, dividing the continent into a large Spanish western part, which encompassed all of the then unknown North America and Central America, and western South America, the Portuguese had Eastern South America, what would become modern eastern Brazil.

By the late 17th century Portuguese/Brazilian explorers had dominated much of the Amazon basin because the mouth of the Amazon river lay within the Portuguese side, as well as the Brazilian inward exploration ventures such as the Bandeiras, which originated in São Paulo and conquered much of what is today central Brazil (states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás) and then proceeded to the Amazon. In 1750 the Treaty of Madrid officialized the transfer of most of the Amazon basin and the region of Mato Grosso to the Portuguese side, hugely contributing to the continental size of what is now Brazil.

Brazilian General Rondon is also reckoned as a major 19th century explorer of the Amazon as well as a defender of its native poeples, the Brazilian state of Rondônia is named after him.

In 1903 Brazil bought a large portion of northern Bolivia and made it its current state of Acre. In 2006 the new socialist Bolivian president Evo Morales talked about "getting it back. The Brazilians got it for the price of a horse". No action was taken and the two nations remain friendly. In the late 19th century, a US-Brazilian joint venture failed to implement the Madeira-Mamoré railway, in the state of Rondônia, with a huge cost in money and lives.

Intense deforestation began in the second half of the 20th century, population growth and development plans such as the failed Brazilian Trans-Amazonian Highway. In the late 1980s the Brazilian Chico Mendes, who lived in Acre, became internationally famous for his passionate defense of the forest and its people, especially after he was shot dead by farmers whose interests he harmed.


The Amazon basin is inhabited by roughly 26 million people, of which 11 million on the Brazilian side. The two largest cities in the Amazon basin are Manaus (1.4 million, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas) and Belém (1 million, capital of the Brazilian state of Pará).


Amazonia is not heavily populated. There are a few cities along the Amazon's banks, such as Iquitos, Peru and scattered settlements inland, but most of the population lives in cities, such as Manaus in Brazil. In many regions, the forest has been cleared for soy bean plantations and ranching (the most extensive non-forest use of the land) and some of the inhabitants harvest wild rubber latex and Brazil nuts. This is a form of extractive farms, where the trees are not cut down, and thus this is a relatively sustainable human impact. Over a half of the Amazon Basin has been disturbed by human activities with over one fifth of the forest being deforested since 1960.


The most widely spoken language in the Amazon is Portuguese, followed closely by Spanish. On the Brazilian side Portuguese is spoken by at least 98% of the population, whilst in the Spanish-speaking countries there can still be found a large amount of speakers of Native American languages, though Spanish easily predominates.

There are hundreds of native languages still spoken in the Amazon, most of which are spoken by only a handful of people, and thus seriously endangered. One of the most widely spoken languages in the Amazon is Reengage, which is actually descended from the ancient Tupi language, originally spoken in coastal and central regions of Brazil, and brought to its present location along the Negro river by Brazilian colonizers, which until the mid-18th century used Tupi more than the official Portuguese to communicate. Other than modern Reengage, other languages of the Tupi Family are spoken there, along with other language families like Jê (with its important subbranch Jayapura spoken in the Xingu river region and others), Arawak, Karib, Arawá, Yanomamo, Matsés and others.


Most people in the Amazon region live off fishing and basic agriculture, and especially in the southern part of the Brazilian side, cattle herding, which is extremely destructive of the forest. One important exception is the Zona Franca de Manaus (Free Zone of Manaus), created by the Brazilian government in the 1970s to implement light industries in the region, mostly electronics and motorcycles. Contrary to what might be believed, this light industrialization is very little polutive and actually, according to some environmentalists, has helped save the rainforest around Manaus by creating job opportunities and education, thus driving people away from the heavily damaging subsistance and slash-and-burn agriculture.

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