Before learning about the Amazon basin, let us look at the map Notice that the tropical region lies very close to the equator; between 10°N and 10°S. So, it is referred to as the equatorial region. The river Amazon flows through this region. Numerous tributaries join the Amazon River to form the Amazon basin. The river basin drains portions of Brazil, parts of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, and a small part of Venezuela. Name the countries of the basin through which the equator passes.
As you now know, the Amazon Basin stretches directly on the equator and is characterized by a hot and wet climate throughout the year. Both day and nights are almost equally hot and humid. The skin feels sticky. It rains almost every day, that too without much warning. The day temperatures are high with very high humidity. At night the temperature goes down but the humidity remains high.
As it rains heavily in this region, thick forests grow The forests are in fact so thick that the dense “roof” created by leaves and branches does not allow the sunlight to reach the ground. The ground remains dark and damp. Only shade-tolerant vegetation may grow here. Orchids, bromeliads grow as plant parasites.
The rainforest is rich in fauna. Birds such as toucans hummingbirds, birds of paradise with their brilliantly colored plumage, oversized bills for eating make them different from birds we commonly see in India. These birds also make loud sounds in the forests.
Animals like monkeys, sloths, and ant-eating tapirs are found here. Various thousands of species of insects. Several species of fishes including the flesh-eating Piranha fish are also found in the river. This basin is thus extraordinarily rich in the variety of life found there.
PEOPLE OF THE RAINFORESTS
People grow most of their food in small areas after clearing some trees in the forest. While men hunt and fish along the rivers, women take care of the crops. They mainly grow tapioca, pineapple, and sweet potato.
As hunting and fishing are uncertain it is the women who keep their families alive by feeding them the vegetables they grow. They practice “slash and burn agriculture”. The staple food is manioc, also known as cassava that grows under the ground like the potato. They also eat queen ants and egg sacs. Cash crops like coffee, maize, and cocoa are also grown.
The rainforests provide a lot of wood for the houses. Some families live in thatched houses shaped like beehives. There are other large apartment-like houses called “Maloca” with a steeply slanting roof. The life of the people of the Amazon basin is slowly changing. In the older days, the heart of the forest could be reached only by navigating the river. In 1970 the Trans Amazon highway made all parts of the rainforest accessible.
Aircraft and helicopters are also used for reaching various places. The indigenous population was pushed out from the area and forced to settle in new areas where they continued to practice their distinctive way of farming. The developmental activities are leading to the gradual destruction of the biologically diverse rainforests.
It is estimated that a large area of the rainforest has been disappearing annually in the Amazon basin. You can see that this destruction of forests has a much wider implication The topsoil is washed away as the rains fall and the lush forest turns into a barren landscape.
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