Amazon Facts

Chris with Amazon Lumber. Photo by: Zoe Helene © 2009Amazon Rainforest Facts

“No photo could ever capture the majesty of these trees and the and profound life power of this jungle.” – Zoe Helene

  • The Amazon Rainforest stretches over a billion acres in Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, and the eastern Andean area of Ecuador and Peru.
  • More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest. This has earned the area the name The Lungs of The Planet.
  • The Amazon Basin holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.
  • Five hundred years ago, an estimated ten million Indians lived in the Amazon rainforest. Today, fewer than 700,000 survive.
  • In Brazil, colonists have destroyed over 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900s. This not only is the destruction of people, but of their cultures, and accumulated knowledge, including that of medicinal plants.
  • Most medicine men and women and shamans remaining in the Amazon Rainforest are 70 years old or more. Each time one dies, a vast body of knowledge is lost.
  • Most of the shamans today do not have apprentices. So when a shaman dies, thousands of years of accumulated knowledge come completely and irreversibly to an end.
  • More than half the world’s approximately 10 million species of plants, animals and insects live in the tropical rainforests.
  • Rainforests once covered an estimated 14% of the earth’s surface. They now cover less than 6%. At current rates of loss, the rainforests will be completely gone in forty years.
  • One and one-half acres of rainforest land is lost every second. This has far-reaching environmental and economic consequences.
  • Rainforest land is mistakenly valued solely for the worth of its timber, mining, and oil resources by short-sighted corporations and governments.
  • As a result of rainforest destruction, approximately half the world’s species of plants, animals and insects will be destroyed in the next 25 years.
  • Due to rainforest destruction, the earth loses an estimated 137 plant, animal and insect species every day. As the rainforest disappears, so do many potentially valuable drugs. Currently 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest materials, but only 1% of these materials have been tested.
  • One hectare (2.47 acres) of rainforest can contain over 750 types of trees, and 1500 species of higher plants.
  • The developed world has derived approximately 80% of its dietary items from rainforests, including items such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, avocados, coconuts, figs, bananas, guavas pineapples, tomatoes, mangos, corn, potatoes, sugar cane, rice, yams and squash.
  • At least 3000 fruits are found in the rainforests. While only 200 of these are used in the western world, natives consume approximately 2,000.
  • Rainforest plants are rich in secondary metabolites, particularly alkaloids. Many alkaloids from higher plants (such as reserpine, caffeine, and vinblastine) are of medicinal and health value.
  • Currently, over 120 drugs come from plant-derived sources. Of the 3000 plants identified by the US National Cancer Institute as active against cancer cells, 70% come from rainforests.
  • One acre of rainforest timber yields an owner $60. One acre for grazing yields an owner $400. One acre of renewable medicinal plants and fruits yields an estimated $2400.
  • Promoting the use of sustainable and renewable rainforest products can help to stop rainforest devastation. The rainforests are much more valuable alive than cut or burned, providing a steady supply of medicinal plants, fruits, nuts and oils.
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