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What is the World's Largest Rainforest?

The Amazon Rainforest, an ecological marvel, reigns as the world's largest rainforest, spanning over 5.5 million square kilometers. This biodiversity hotspot is home to untold species and indigenous cultures, playing a crucial role in Earth's climate regulation. Discover how this vast green expanse shapes our global environment and why its preservation is vital. What secrets does the Amazon hold for our future?
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

The world's largest rainforest, and also the most famous, is the Amazon Rainforest, mostly located within Brazil (60%) and Peru (13%) in South America. The Amazon Rainforest is the number one biodiversity hotspot on the planet, only rivaled by the Congo Rainforest in Africa and the Southeast Asian rainforests in Asia. The rainforest has an area of over two million square miles (5.5 million square kilometers), making it the world's largest rainforest by a factor of at least 30% over the second largest rainforest, the Congo Rainforest. More than one in ten known plant and animal species can be found in the Amazon, including around 2.5 million insect species, at least 40,000 plant species, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles.

Like other rainforests, the Amazon Rainforest is extremely dense, featuring over 90,000 tonnes of living plants per square kilometer. The plants cover the sky with a thick canopy, making the ground relatively dark. The huge trees make the world's largest rainforest a three-dimensional biome, with a canopy layer at about 30-40 m (100-125 ft) above the ground, and different animal species living at each layer. The rainforest layers include the canopy, the emergent layer above the canopy, the understory, which is below the canopy, and the forest floor, which only receives 2% of total sunlight. Frequent rains wash away the soil, meaning that rainforest soils are only a few inches thick.

Brazil is home to 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest, which is the largest in the world.
Brazil is home to 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest, which is the largest in the world.

The Amazon Rainforest is famous for being beautiful but dangerous. The waters of the Amazon River are inhabited by electric eels, whose shocks can kill; piranhas, which can strip a carcass of flesh in minutes; and the Black Caiman, a black crocodilian that has been known to kill humans by pulling them underwater until they drown. On the land are the Anaconda, one of the world's largest snakes, with a length up to 23 ft (7 m); poison dart frogs, whose lipophilic alkaloid poisons can kill an animal thousands of times their size, and which include the most poisonous animal on Earth; and the famous and beautiful jaguar, one of the largest predators in the world, and the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere.

The Amazon Rainforest has more than 90,000 tonnes of plants per square kilometer.
The Amazon Rainforest has more than 90,000 tonnes of plants per square kilometer.

Though the Amazon is the world's largest rainforest, it is being deforested rapidly. About 10% of the rainforest has been lost to slash-and-burn agriculture since the 1960s, and at the current rate of loss, about half the rainforest will be destroyed by 2030. Environmentalists around the world have taken a variety of steps to discourage the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, but have had limited success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the world's largest rainforest?

The waters of the Amazon River are home to dangerous piranhas and electric eels.
The waters of the Amazon River are home to dangerous piranhas and electric eels.

The Amazon Rainforest is the world's largest rainforest, spanning over 5.5 million square kilometers. It covers parts of nine countries in South America, with the majority (about 60%) in Brazil. The Amazon is known for its incredible biodiversity, housing approximately 10% of the world's known species, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

How much of the Earth's oxygen is produced by the Amazon Rainforest?

The Amazon is located in parts of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
The Amazon is located in parts of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

It is a common misconception that the Amazon Rainforest is the "lungs of the Earth," producing 20% of the world's oxygen. However, according to recent scientific studies, the Amazon's net contribution to the oxygen we breathe is close to zero. This is because the rainforest absorbs nearly as much oxygen through respiration as it produces during photosynthesis.

What are the threats to the Amazon Rainforest?

Sun bears can be found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia.
Sun bears can be found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia.

The Amazon Rainforest faces several threats, including deforestation due to logging, agriculture, and cattle ranching; mining; and climate change. Deforestation in the Amazon has accelerated in recent years, with Brazil's National Institute for Space Research reporting over 10,000 square kilometers cleared in the year ending July 2020, which is a 12-year high.

How does the Amazon Rainforest impact global climate?

Gnatcatchers may live in rainforests.
Gnatcatchers may live in rainforests.

The Amazon Rainforest plays a crucial role in regulating the global climate. It stores vast amounts of carbon, with estimates suggesting that the Amazon's trees hold about 76 billion tonnes of carbon, helping to mitigate climate change. Additionally, the Amazon influences rainfall patterns across South America and even in other regions of the world through its impact on atmospheric currents.

What can be done to protect the Amazon Rainforest?

Jumping spiders may live in tropical forests.
Jumping spiders may live in tropical forests.

Protecting the Amazon Rainforest requires concerted efforts at local, national, and international levels. This includes enforcing laws against illegal logging, supporting sustainable land-use practices, investing in conservation and reforestation projects, and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples who are the rainforest's stewards. International cooperation and funding are also vital to incentivize conservation efforts and sustainable development in the region.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime CulturalWorld contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Learn more...
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime CulturalWorld contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

PelesTears

The rainforests of Borneo do not qualify as the world's largest rainforest, but it may qualify as the world's most endangered rainforest. This beautiful forest is home to some of the world’s most unique plants and animals; things like the world’s largest carnivorous plant, world's largest orchid, world's largest butterfly, as well as the world’s tallest rainforest. With that last record comes a number of flying species that are found in few other places; things like flying squirrels, lizards, and snakes.

The worst part is this beautiful rainforest is being destroyed faster than any other rainforest because of people's addiction to fast food, make-up, and even biofuel. Companies are leveling the forests of Borneo and replacing it with palm oil plantations. Eighty-five percent of the world's palm oil is produced on land that was once part of the Borneo forests. That’s something we should all think about next time we are in line at the drive-through.

Babalaas

The most biodiverse area of the world's largest tropical rainforest is the Yasuni National forest on the Amazon's western boundary. The area is the world's most biodiverse region, but it is under threat from oil prospecting and development.

The forest contains a rich variety of bird, mammal, amphibian, and plant species. It is also one of the biodiverse hotspots that has the best chance of sustaining its biodiversity well into the future. If oil exploration were not a threat, Yasuni could become one of the world's most ecologically important areas. Sadly 79% of the area is under contract to oil development, and less than 15% of the area is protected as a conservation area.

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    • Brazil is home to 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest, which is the largest in the world.
      By: Bastos
      Brazil is home to 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest, which is the largest in the world.
    • The Amazon Rainforest has more than 90,000 tonnes of plants per square kilometer.
      By: mtilghma
      The Amazon Rainforest has more than 90,000 tonnes of plants per square kilometer.
    • The waters of the Amazon River are home to dangerous piranhas and electric eels.
      By: alelina
      The waters of the Amazon River are home to dangerous piranhas and electric eels.
    • The Amazon is located in parts of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
      By: bogdanserban
      The Amazon is located in parts of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
    • Sun bears can be found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia.
      Sun bears can be found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia.
    • Gnatcatchers may live in rainforests.
      Gnatcatchers may live in rainforests.
    • Jumping spiders may live in tropical forests.
      Jumping spiders may live in tropical forests.
    • Tropical rainforests may be home to many sunbirds.
      Tropical rainforests may be home to many sunbirds.
    • Basilisk lizards may dwell in rainforests.
      Basilisk lizards may dwell in rainforests.