ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Amazon River: Lifeblood of the Rainforest

Updated on July 13, 2015
Source

Rivers have long epitomized the spirit of adventure, providing a means of travel deep into the heart of the diverse environments that flourish around them; and few more so than the Amazon. Its waters are the lifeblood for a rainforest that covers 40% of Brazil; and the river itself flows through six countries during its 6,400 kilometre journey across the continent of South America.

The Amazon is so wide that no bridge can cross it; and it grows even wider during the floods caused by the melting snows at its source in the Andes Mountains. The distance between the two riverbanks can reach as high as 40 kilometers in some cases.


Amazon River Map
Amazon River Map | Source

Before roads, rivers were the most efficient means of transporting people and goods. The Amazon is still used for this purpose, and not just by indigenous cultures. The city of Iquitos in Peru can only be accessed by river or air, making it the largest inland city in the world that is still inaccessible by road.

How the River was Formed

Origin of the Amazon: The wooden cross marks the source of the river at  Nevado Mismi in the Andes Mountains
Origin of the Amazon: The wooden cross marks the source of the river at Nevado Mismi in the Andes Mountains | Source

The area around the Amazon forms a natural drainage basin - a massive geographical bowl that draws all water to a single point; and it's almost twice the size of any other such drainage basin in the world.

Combine this with a tropical climate that sees an average 250 of days of rainfall a year, and it's clear why such a diverse ecosystem has been able to thrive in the region, despite the ground not being particularly fertile (the top two inches of the soil contains 99% its nutrients).

Millions of years ago, the Amazon actually flowed west into the Pacific Ocean, rather than east into the Atlantic. This was back when South America - together with Antarctica, Africa, Australia and India - formed part of a super-continent called 'Gondwanaland'.

When this landmass began to split, South America drifted into the Pacific tectonic plate. The collision brought about the formation of the Andes Mountains, which blocked the river's passage and created a large lake in the process.

So for a long time, the Amazon was a lake rather than a river. But the earth continued to reform itself, and eventually the water broke through the barriers and surged forth into the Atlantic ocean, flooding all in its path and becoming the river we know today.



Satellite Image of the Amazon River Delta
Satellite Image of the Amazon River Delta | Source

Now it runs from its source high in the Andes mountains towards the Atlantic, where it spills into the ocean with such force that it's about 230 kilometres before the water of the river begins to mix with that of the ocean. Hence why ships approaching the river mouth (which is large enough for ocean-going vessels to pass through) can tell they are nearing their destination long before the coast of South America is in sight, as the sea water begins to take on the same brownish colour as that of the Amazon.

Whether or not the Amazon is longer than the Nile may be a point of contention, but there's no debate about which has the greater volume of water. 20 per cent of all freshwater that is discharged into the ocean comes from the Amazon, as does 20 to 25 per cent of all water that runs off the earth's surface.

The People of the Amazon

Family on the Banks of the River
Family on the Banks of the River | Source

The livelihoods of over a hundred indigenous tribes – many of which have had no contact whatsoever with the outside world – are dependent on the Amazon. They include the Waodani tribe, who speak a language that has no linguistic links to any other known dialect; and the Tagaeri tribe, who are so determined to preserve their isolation that they went so far as to attack and kill two missionaries who attempted to make contact with them in 1987.

Other groups have been more open to outside influence. The ribereños are descended from a mix of European colonists and indigenous tribespeople, and though they still rely on the river for sustenance and transport, they have incorporated some aspects of modern technology into their lifestyles.

Amazon Wildlife

Monkeys in the Amazon
Monkeys in the Amazon | Source

The river is the foundation of one of the world's most diverse land-based ecosystems. Often referred to as the “lungs of the earth”, the Amazon rainforest produces 40 per cent of the world's oxygen, and is home to wide range of flora and fauna including 500 mammals, 30 million insect varieties, 175 lizards, 300 other species of reptile, and a third of the world's bird species. Harpy eagles swoop down from the skies and snatch unsuspecting monkeys from the branches of the trees; while electric eels, giant catfish, turtles, crocodiles and even bull sharks lurk in the waters of the river.

Puerto Rican Parrots
Puerto Rican Parrots | Source

Among the most famous creatures to be seen here are the pink dolphins - that is, if anyone is lucky enough to see them. Though they occasionally pop their heads up above the surface in order to satisfy their curiosity, they disappear back down below just as quickly; and any attempt by tourists to snap pictures of them usually produces numerous photos of ripples on the water's surface, where a pink dolphin had shown its face only moments before.

Though local legends may tell of the dolphins transforming into humans and walking the shores of the river at night; in general they stick to shallow waters, and thus have little trouble from predators. However, deforestation and pollution remains a massive threat to all species that inhabit the Amazon.

Pink Dolphin in the Amazon
Pink Dolphin in the Amazon | Source

The Nile gave rise to a great man-made civilization, while the Amazon is the heart of a natural wonder. It may not be made by man but it can certainly be destroyed by man, if adequate measures are not taken to protect it.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Lizzy 

      3 years ago

      This hub is beautiful. I find the Amazon a wonderful mystery and would LOVE to travel there some time. Until then, I guess I´m going to have to read your hubs and sit in front of a virtual (yet wonderful) waterfall right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmg4KjscPSE&li... :D

      Thank you for the beautiful pictures, I really enjoyed reading your hub.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this. I enjoyed reading about the source of the Amazon - a river I've recently traveled down - and your descriptions of the flora and fauna. It's certainly an overwhelming river when you first face it and leaves a lasting impression.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)