The Amazing Biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest

¿Sabias qué? Did you know?

Every summer, we offer various camp themes for our campers to dive into!  They participate in fun activities, learning new facts and vocabulary for each theme.  Our Amazon Rainforest camp theme is always a favorite! With a little imagination, we can take campers on a rainforest adventure all from the comfort of our own schools.  As we “fly” over the Amazon, we show children why the rainforest is important – not only for the local people but also for the rest of the world.

But why should the kids have all the fun?!!  In this blog, we let the adults in on what our campers are learning about the Amazon’s amazing biodiversity and what an important natural resource it is.  Shhhhh, don’t let the kids know.  🙂

Water and Oxygen in the Amazon Rainforest

Let’s start with one of the most important resources. Did you know that twenty percent of the world’s fresh water is found in the Amazon Rainforest?  The width of the Amazon River can be anywhere between two and thirty miles. It reaches its maximum width in the rainy season when increased rains swell the river and it floods its banks. This huge body of fresh water is home to many species of fish. In fact, there are more species of fish in the Amazon than anywhere else on Earth!

The Amazon Rainforest also produces more than twenty percent of the world’s oxygen! It is nicknamed “El Pulmón del Mundo” (the lung of the world). What a fitting name!  Trees and other plants form the base of the Amazon rainforest ecosystem and provide biomass that’s consumed by other organisms. The vertical structure of the rainforest consists of the ground layer, shrub layer, understory, canopy, and overstory, oftentimes extending 130 ft or higher.  One of the dominant species found throughout the Amazon rainforest lowlands is the Brazil nut tree, which grows to the top of the canopy layer, and can reach up to 160 feet tall! 

Medicinal Plants and Food

The rainforest is full of amazing plants that can help heal us when we’re sick. Can you believe that more than a quarter of the world’s medicines come from these plants? Medicinal plants are often more cost-effective in treating medical problems than pharmaceutical solutions.  The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified plants that are useful in the treatment of cancer, with seventy percent of these plants found only in rainforests!  Across the Amazon, hundreds of plant species are used for traditional medical issues by local peoples. Malaria, one of the most deadly tropical diseases, can be treated to some degree by at least 40 different species of plants in the Brazilian Amazon alone.

Doctors are studying the venom in the Golden Poison Dart Frog to see if it can be used as pain medicine!  In nature, the venom from this type of frog is deadly, but with technology and on-going studies, doctors will be able to find a safe way to use it for pain relief.

Rainforest food products are also a regular part of our global food supply. Around 80% of our favorite foods originally come from rainforests.  These include coffee, chocolate, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, black pepper, pineapples, corn, guavas, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric, vanilla, and Brazil nuts, and many more!   The next time you enjoy a dark chocolate bar with 70% cacao, take a moment to savor it and enjoy tasting the rainforest!

Amazing Animals

It’s hard to believe, but even though rainforests cover only two percent of the Earth’s surface, they are home to about FIFTY percent of the Earth’s plants and animals!  Some of the most unique animals include jaguars, macaws (including the hyacinth macaw – like our mascot Periquito Azul), sloths, capybaras, jaguarundi, toucans, the black spider monkey (and many other monkeys), and the Amazon River Dolphin. Click here to learn more about these and many other incredible Amazon species.

A Little Further Reading

These areas we’ve mentioned highlight just a few of the incredible gifts we get from the rainforest.  If you’d like to learn more, the Rainforest Alliance has great information about additional ways tropical rainforests enrich our lives. They also share fun kids’ activities and tips on conservation to help preserve this invaluable treasure.  Click here for resources and information!

So, what do you think?