IMPORTANCE OF RAINFOREST RIVERS TO PEOPLE
Tropical rivers have always played an essential role in the ecology
of the rainforest, but they have also been important in the lives of forest and non-forest peoples. Before the arrival of the Europeans,
sprawling civilizations and smaller societies formed along major waterways which served as a means of transport
and communication, a route for trade, and a source of fish and fresh water. However, because of their location along
major rivers, such settlements were the first to disappear, either directly affected by warfare or indirectly affected
by the onslaught of European diseases.
Today, large tropical rivers remain important forms of infrastructure providing a cheap, reliable, and easy means
for transportation and communication. Major rivers ports like Iquitos, Peru, and Manaus, Brazil, are trade centers
where forest products are exchanged for outside goods. Often, the only access to such ports, isolated by the surrounding
forest, is by water or air. For example, there are no roads leading into to Iquitos and all construction materials,
automobiles, and other essentials must be shipped into the city by river or air.
Amazonian River Boat, Brazil 1999
Besides providing a means for commerce and communication, tropical rivers are a key source of protein, in the form
of fish, for the population. However in some areas, fishermen report smaller catches
as regional overfishing takes
its toll. The river also provides services for city dwellers by fertilizing the surrounding soils every flood season
and by taking away the tons of human waste and pollutants that city dwellers dump into the river.
Tropical fish provide an important source of income for many city dwellers, especially in the Amazon, which is home
to some 3,000 species of fish. Many of the fish seen in temperate-zone aquarium shops are imported from Brazil and
Fisherman in Laos. Click image for more pictures of fishing. (Photo by R. Butler)
- Why is the Amazon River important to local people
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Continued / Next: Tropical lakes