Blue Flower

The Amazon is a vast biome that spans eight rapidly developing countries—Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname—and French Guiana, an overseas territory of France.

The landscape contains

  • one in 10 known species on Earth
  • 1.4 billion acres of dense forests, half of the planet's remaining tropical forests
  • the 3,977-mile-long Amazon River, the second-longest river on Earth after the Nile
  • 2.6 million square miles in the Amazon basin, about 40% of South America

There is a clear link between the health of the Amazon and the health of the planet. The rain forests, which contain 90-140 billion tons of carbon, help stabilize the local and global climate. Deforestation releases significant amounts of this carbon, which is having negative consequences around the world.

 

The Amazon contains millions of species, most of them still undescribed, and some of the world's most unusual wildlife. It is one of Earth's last refuges for jaguars, harpy eagles, and pink river dolphins, and home to thousands of birds and butterflies. Tree-dwelling species include southern two-toed sloths, pygmy marmosets, saddleback and emperor tamarins, and Goeldi's monkeys. The diversity of the region is staggering:

  • 40,000 plant species
  • 2,400 freshwater fish species
  • more than 370 types of reptiles

 

Transportation and energy infrastructure are essential for national and regional development, but when they are poorly planned, negative impacts can exceed short-term benefits. For example, building new roads exposes previously inaccessible areas of forest to illegal and unsustainable logging as well as illegal or unplanned settlements and agricultural expansion.

Hydropower is now used to meet Brazil’s growing demand for energy, but many dams are being constructed in areas of high conservation value. The dams:

  • disrupt river connectivity
  • block the range of many aquatic species, including migratory fish and river dolphins
  • interfere with some subsistence and commercial fisheries

 

There is high demand for the natural resources found in the Amazon but weak law enforcement to safeguard them. In addition, inefficient extraction processes lead to the destruction of nature and wildlife. For example, mining activities contribute to soil erosion and water contamination. Mercury contamination of Amazonian waters from artisanal mining is of particular concern given the consequential impacts on human health and contamination of the food chain for fish and wildlife.

WWF works to promote best practices and decrease environmental damage from:

  • gold mining
  • oil exploration
  • illegal logging
  • overharvesting of fish and other aquatic species

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

The Amazon is critical to our efforts to avoid a climate catastrophe. Water vapor released from the Amazon creates vast “flying rivers” in the atmosphere, which influence rainfall and thus agricultural production in central and southern South America. And the billions of tons of carbon stored in the Amazon rain forest is of global importance to slowing climate change.

But the Amazon is threatened by rising deforestation. Unprecedented droughts are happening with growing frequency. Dry seasons are hotter and longer. Long dry spells wither crops, decimate fisheries, and lead to forest fires. This can result in significant shifts in the makeup of ecosystems and a loss of species.

According to many notable scientists, including longtime friend of WWF Tom Lovejoy, the Amazon is close to a tipping point past which it will no longer be able to sustainably support itself. To ensure the Amazon’s future, for its people and biodiversity, deforestation in the region should not exceed 20%, and it is already at 18%. Our vision is one of zero net deforestation in the Amazon to safeguard this globally important ecosystem.