10 Facts about the Amazon Rainforest in 2020
By Rhett A. Butler
Last update: Feb 12, 2020
Most people understand that the Amazon is Earth's largest rainforest, but here are ten other facts you should know about the Amazon. Click on these links if you'd like to learn more about The Amazon or tropical rainforests generally (including 10 facts about rainforests).
- The Amazon is the world's biggest rainforest, larger than the next two largest rainforests — in the Congo Basin and Indonesia — combined.
- At 6.9 million square kilometers (2.72 million square miles), the Amazon Basin is roughly the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States and covers some 40 percent of the South American continent. The "Amazon rainforest" — which defined biogeographically includes the rainforest in the Guianas, which technically are outside the Amazon Basin — covers 7.8-8.2 million square km (3-3.2 million square mi), of which just over 80 percent is forested.
- The Amazon River is by far the world's largest river by volume, carrying more than five times the volume of the Congo or twelve times that of the Mississippi. It drains an area nearly the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States and has over 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are longer than 1000 miles.
- The Amazon River once flowed west-ward instead of east-ward as it does today. The rise of the Andes caused it to flow into the Atlantic Ocean.
- The Amazon is estimated to have 16,000 tree species and 390 billion individual trees
- Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is found in Brazil.
- The Amazon is thought to have 2.5 million species of insects. More than half the species in the Amazon rainforest are thought to live in the canopy.
- 70 percent of South America's GDP is produced in areas that receive rainfall or water from the Amazon. The Amazon influences rainfall patterns as far away as the United States.
- Cattle ranching accounts for roughly 70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon.
- Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has been declining since 2004, mostly due to the falling deforestation rate in Brazil. There are a variety of reasons for the decline, including macroeconomic trends, new protected areas and indigenous territories, improved law enforcement, deforestation monitoring via satellite, pressure from environmental groups, and private sector initiatives.
Other things to know about the Amazon - in charts
Amazon rainforest section contents: