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The Amazon

The Amazon
Location: South America – mainly Brazil but also Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela
Size: 6.7m sq km
Iconic species:
Over 400 mammal species, 1,300 types of birds, almost 400 reptile species, at least 3,000 types of fish, over 400 species of amphibian, and 40,000 plant species
People: More than 30 million

About the Amazon

The world’s biggest river flows through the world’s biggest rainforest – both are called the Amazon.

This vast untamed wilderness is under increasing threat from large-scale agriculture, infrastructure development, illegal and unsustainable logging, mining and climate change.

We’re determined to help save enough of the Amazon to protect most of its species and natural resources, and help make sure it develops sustainably, for the benefit of its people and the planet as a whole.

Discover how you can help protect this amazing place.

Why the Amazon matters

The Amazon is home to almost one-third the planet’s remaining tropical rainforests, and one in 10 of all the species we know about – and very likely many we don’t.

People around the world, as well as locally, depend on its resources and services – not just for food, water, timber and medicines, but to stabilise the climate. It’s estimated that the Amazon forest stores up to 140 billion tonnes of carbon.

Wildlife that live in the Amazon

Hundreds of thousands of species live here. The Amazon river itself runs for more than 6,600km, and contains over two and a half times as many freshwater fish species than any other river.

Threats to the Amazon

Deforestation

This is by far the biggest problem in the Amazon. Huge areas of rainforest are destroyed by clearing for agriculture, illegal or unsustainable logging for timber, and for industrial or urban development. The basic problem is that not enough value is placed on the natural environment – it’s often seen as more economically viable to cut the forest down than keep it standing.


Cowboys and their cattle

Expanding agriculture

Increasing global demand for food, especially meat, has led to Brazil becoming the world’s biggest beef exporter, and the second-largest exporter of soybeans, which are mainly used for livestock feed. Forests are often cleared to make way for grazing land or soya plantations.


Aerial view of the Petit Saut dam

Infrastructure developments

As well as farming and urban sprawl, the growth of hydropower dams, mines and oil wells – and the road networks to serve them – have all had impacts on the Amazon. These may be wanted for economic development, but if they’re poorly planned or managed they can cause serious environmental harm.


Climate change

The Amazon is at the core of climate concerns – not only because the burning and destruction of forests adds to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but also because the rainforest itself is vulnerable to global warming. This can create a ‘negative feedback loop’ – the more forest that’s lost, the more the temperature rises, which causes more forest to die back, and so on.


Blue-and-yellow Macaw

What we’re doing to help protect the Amazon

Cattle and cattle herons

Helping reduce deforestation

We’re making sure businesses, politicians, and local communities recognise the value of keeping the forests standing. We’re working throughout the Brazilian Amazon and the Colombian piedmont to promote more sustainable practices. For instance, we’ve been working with the beef industry in Brazil to help make their existing cattle ranches more productive, and prevent new ranches being created in high-conservation value areas.


Sky Rainforest Rescue partnership logo

Sky Rainforest Rescue

In partnership with Sky we’ve been helping to save a billion trees in the Brazilian state of Acre. Working closely with the state government, we’ve provided families and farmers with training, incentives and technical support so they can get the most out of the land they use – for instance, producing sustainable forest products such as rubber.


Confluence of Tapajos River with Amazon

Building a sustainable forest economy

We want businesses and finance institutions to adopt clear environmental and social safeguards with regards to development such as roads in the Amazon. We want to see better planning for dams – we’re focussing on the Tapajos, Maranon and Madeira rivers as they are important tributaries to the Amazon river. And we work with local partners to minimise the negative impacts of economic expansion.


Success story: deforestation rate decreased by 75%

ARPA – the Amazon Region Protected Areas programme - which we helped set up in 2002, is the biggest tropical rainforest conservation programme in history protecting over 128 million hectares.

This innovative, globally-supported partnership of conservationists, governments, financial institutions, businesses and civil society, has played a vital role in slowing deforestation in Brazil. Brazil’s deforestation rate decreased by 75% between 2000 and 2012. A commitment was made in 2014 by the programme partners to continue supporting existing and new protected areas for a further 25 years

How you can help protect the Amazon