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Ecosystems of the Amazon Rainforest

  |   Ecotourism

The enormous Amazon basin is made up of a web of ecosystems and unique landscapes. This region produces about 20% of the Earth's oxygen and is vital to our survival. Due to its diverse landscape, stable climate and proximity to the equator, the Amazon Rainforest is known as an ecoregion, which has been defined by the WWF as a “large unit of land or water containing geographically distinct assemblage of species, natural communities, and environmental conditions.”

Amazon Ecosystem


The ecoregion of the Amazon is made up of a number sub-ecoregions. These can be categorized under two umbrella definitions, aquatic ecosystems (water-based systems) and terrestrial ecosystems (land-based systems). Both of these ecoregions exist within the Amazon Rainforest, and within these sections they become even more complex, unique and fascinating.


The Amazon Rainforest is thought to contain half of the world's species in its canopy alone and has the highest level of biodiversity of in the world. This is because its complex ecosystems contains a number of layers and different communities that have their own unique wildlife and plantlife. 


What is an Ecosystem?

An ecosystem is an entirely unique environment, and within this specific environment every living thing is interdependent. One of the best examples and most complex examples of an ecosystem can be found in the Amazon Rainforest. The plants and animals living in an ecosystem are associated with specific climatic conditions and non-living conditions, these conditions characterize the actions that take place between the soil, plants, animals and other living organisms. If one species was to die, it would have a wider impact on all of the other organisms in the environment. 

Amazon canopy


What makes the Amazon Rainforest a good ecosystem?

As the largest continuous rainforest ecosystem in the world, the Amazon Rainforest is defined by the enormous Amazon River, the second largest river in the world and the most voluminous river on Earth. The 4,000-mile-long river is at the heart of the ecosystem of the Amazon. Covering two thirds of South America and sitting 10 degrees to the north and to the south of the equator the environments within the region vary massively. The result is a mosaic of different ecosystems that interact and rely upon each other, and on which humans also rely. Of all of the ecosystems in the world, the Amazon's ecosystems has the most species per area and the greatest biodiversity of organisms. This means it is both important to us and to the world's wildlife. 


The Ecosystems of the Amazon Rainforest

Known as the “lungs of our planet,” the ecosystem of the Amazon Rainforest is one of the greatest natural resources we have. Its vegetation turns carbon dioxide into oxygen, and is one of most treasured oxygen sources. 

Each of the following sub-ecoregions contribute to the larger ecoregion of the Amazon Rainforest, if one of these were to disappear it would have a devastating effect on the remaining environments and the ecoregion as a whole:

Amazon ecosystems


1. Varzea: floodplain forests

The areas close to riversides that are flooded during the rainy season. These areas are constantly being remodelled by the Amazon River, but are very resilient and strong. 


2. Terra firma: rainforest

Terra firma literally means firm earth and is essentially forest area that is not on a floodplain. This ecosystem usually lies away from rivers. 


3. Igapo: forests on the blackwaters of the Amazon River

This type of ecosystem typically exists around freshwater lakes and lower reaches of rivers. Primarily, the region receives at least six months of rainfall annually, when its trees are submerged underwater. The area is essentially made up of freshwater swamp forests. 

Giant Victoria Lilies


Protecting the Amazon's ecosystem

The wildlife and plantlife in the Amazon has evolved over thousands of years and in such a way that every living creature relies on another to survive. This means the ecosystems of the Amazon Rainforest are extremely fragile. 


Today more than 20% of the Amazon Rainforest has been destroyed. In fact, the California Institute of Technology has reported that a football-sized area of rainforest is being destroyed every second. Conservationists can't keep up with the 2,000 trees that are cut down a day. This destruction will not only affect the species that only exist in the Amazon, but also humans. Not only are we destroying our lungs and supply of oxygen, but also our supply of natural resources, such as medicines, we source 25% of medicinal ingredients from rainforest plants. 

Three-toed Sloth


Development projects that have taken place over the years have removed the precious Amazon forest that we rely on. These projects have included building dams, roads and oil and gas pipelines in the region. Climate change throughout the world has also had a negative impact on the Amazon Rainforest, making the region vulnerable to forest fires. 


A number of conservation projects exist focusing on preserving and protecting the current ecosystems, such as the WWF Varzea Project that focused on the Santarem and Lower Amazon Para State region in Brazil. The project helped both the residents of the region with sustainability as well asworking to protect parts of the rainforest that are in danger.

Passion fruit flower

Positive changes have been and are being made to ensure the important ecosystems of the Amazon Rainforest will continue to exist. A large network of protected areas are now in place, a reduction in deforestation has been reported, and monitoring and enforcement of laws in the region has improved.  

You can visit the incredibly diverse and impressive Amazon ecosystems from the center of it all, the river, by taking one of our riverboat cruises. Our eco-friendly riverboats reach out to protected parts of the Amazon Rainforest, where you can enjoy the Amazon in all of its natural glory. From Peru to Brazil, choose a destination to suit you and visit this natural wonder of the world. Contact us for more information about booking a riverboat cruise or about ecosystems in the Amazon.

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About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises and tours, providing you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Panama. As South American travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.


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We had an absolutely fabulous time on the cruise. Thank you again for the trip of a lifetime.
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The Johannson family encounter a sloth on their rainforest cruise.
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