Vendée Globe 2008: The Amazon Rainforest

Skipper Wilson is sailing past Brazil this week. In addition to being the largest country in South America, Brazil also is the fifth largest in the world — and home to the majority of the Amazon Rainforest.

The Amazon Rainforest is a tropical rainforest, meaning that it’s located near the equator (so it’s warm), it gets a lot of rain, and many different types of trees grow there — both deciduous (trees that lose their leaves every year) and non-deciduous (trees that hold onto their leaves year round). Their branches grow so close together that they create a canopy (or overhang) that protects everything else growing below.

The Amazon Rainforest gets 69-79 inches of rain a year, making it a fertile place for plants to grow. And where plants grow, usually you find animals that eat them (and other animals that eat the plant-eaters). So it’s not really surprising that the rainforest is home to lots of living things. Scientists aren’t sure exactly how many, because they find new plants and animals there regularly. So far, though, they’ve found tens of thousands of plants, 2.5 million types of insects, and several thousand mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

That’s a lot of interesting plants and animals. Scientists have found plants there that they think may help to fight cancer and some they already know help against malaria, which is a deadly disease spread by mosquito bites in many humid areas of the world. They also have found unique animals, like blue poison dart frogs, electric eels, and vampire bats.

The Amazon region is a huge area that covers 1.4 billion acres of land. That’s double the amount of land in Alaska, Texas, and California combined. But every year there is less and less of it because people are cutting down the trees for a variety of reasons, including highway building and farming. If people keep cutting down the trees, scientists estimate that within twenty years nearly half the Amazon Rainforest will be gone. In addition to the trees that would be lost, animals and other plants would die off and native tribes would have to leave their homelands. All of this would cause huge climate change problems. Scientists are hard at work preventing the loss of the forests in this area, but it’s hard to protect an area that is governed by nine different countries. At the very least, it seems like everyone might have to do with a little less in order to keep such an important resource intact.

Read Skipper Wilson’s thoughts on preserving our natural resources here, and keep up to date with his journey in his most recent log and podcast.

Amazon Interactive (K-12)
Students can explore the geography of the Ecuadorian Amazon through online games and activities.


Journey into Amazonia (5-12)
This resource, from PBS, is the companion to the three-hour wildlife series titled “Journey into Amazonia.” The site includes lesson plans, student interactives, and related web resources.

Biomes of the World (K-8)
Biomes of the World provides information on rainforest, tundra, taiga, desert, temperate, and grassland biomes. For each of these, information is provided about the climate, plants, and animals found there.

Create a Rainforest Refuge (6-12)
In this resource, students create development strategies for sustainable growth with both economic and environmental interests in mind.

Introducing Biodiversity (3-5)
This Science NetLinks lesson introduces students to the amazing variety of life around them.


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