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The Amazon River

Not only does the Amazon encompass the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world, it also houses at least 10% of the world's known biodiversity, including endemic and endangered flora and fauna, and its river accounts for 15-16% of the world's total river discharge into the oceans.

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The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s richest and most-varied biological reservoir, containing several million species of insects, plants, birds, and other forms of life, many still unrecorded by science. The luxuriant vegetation encompasses a wide variety of trees, including many species of myrtle, laurel, palm, and acacia, as well as rosewood, Brazil nut, and rubber tree. Excellent timber is furnished by the mahogany and the Amazonian cedar. Major wildlife includes jaguar, manatee, tapir, red deer, capybara and many other types of rodents, and several types of monkeys.

In the 20th century, Brazil’s rapidly growing population settled major areas of the Amazon Rainforest. The size of the Amazon forest shrank dramatically as a result of settlers’ clearance of the land to obtain lumber and to create grazing pastures and farmland. Brazil holds approximately 60 percent of the Amazon basin within its borders, and some 1,583,000 square miles (4,100,000 square km) of this was covered by forests in 1970. The amount of forest cover declined to some 1,283,000 square miles (3,323,000 square km) by 2016, about 81 percent of the area that had been covered by forests in 1970. In the 1990s the Brazilian government and various international bodies began efforts to protect parts of the forest from human encroachment, exploitation, deforestation, and other forms of destruction. Although Brazil’s Amazon continues to lose forest cover, the pace of this loss declined from roughly 0.4 percent per year during the 1980s and ’90s to roughly 0.1–0.2 percent per year between 2008 and 2016. However, some 75,000 fires occurred in the Brazilian Amazon during the first half of 2019 (an increase of 85 percent over 2018), largely due to encouragement from Brazilian Pres. Jair Bolsonaro, a strong proponent of tree clearing.

 

When to go:

In many ways, May and early June are the best time to visit the Amazon.  During these months, the river levels are still high enough for  exploration by boat, but the rainfall is curbing enough to draw out some  of the wildlife you might not spot otherwise.

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