The Amazon Rainforest Biome

Learn About Its Location, Rich Biodiversity and Indigenous Cultures

Heading deeper into the Amazon on a small boat
A canoe navigates the vast waterways of the Amazon River, where most areas are accessible only by boat, highlighting the immense scale and remote beauty of the rainforest

What is the Amazon Rainforest Biome?

The Amazon Biome, also known as the Amazonia or Amazon Jungle, is an awe-inspiring and intricate region that stands as the world's largest tropical rainforest. Encompassing 6.7 million km2, this unmatched sanctuary of natural and cultural wealth is home to a vast array of unique flora and fauna. Inhabited by numerous indigenous communities, the Amazon holds a pivotal role in sustaining the delicate equilibrium of Earth's ecosystems.

Where is the Amazon Rainforest?

The Amazon Forest Biome stretches over a vast area of South America. It encompasses parts of nine countries, with the majority of it (over 60%) situated in Brazil. The remainder spreads across Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, which is an overseas territory of France.

This extensive rainforest biome is bordered by the Andes Mountains to the west and the Guiana Highlands to the north. To the south, it's limited by the Cerrado, a vast tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil. The biome extends eastwards to the Atlantic Ocean, thus covering a large portion of the South American continent.

Map highlights the immense scale of the Amazon Rainforest and the state of Acre, Brazil, within South America
Map highlights the immense scale of the Amazon Rainforest and the state of Acre, Brazil, within South America

The Amazon Biome: A Testament to Nature's Grandeur

  • Scale and Complexity: The Amazon Biome is twice the size of India and houses the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world.
  • Biodiversity: At least 10% of the world's known biodiversity, including endemic and endangered species, can be found within the Amazon.
  • River Systems: The Amazon River and its tributaries account for 15-16% of the world's total river discharge into the oceans, flowing for over 6,600 km and hosting the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world.
  • Indigenous Communities: The Amazon is home to over 30 million people, including around 2.7 million indigenous individuals from 350 distinct ethnic groups. Among these are the Katukina, Yawanawá, and Shipibo-Conibo tribes, each with their own rich cultural heritage. Over 60 of these groups remain largely isolated, preserving unique cultures and knowledge systems that have thrived in the region for centuries. The Shipibo-Conibo, known for their intricate textile designs and shamanic practices, are one of the larger indigenous communities in the Amazon.

Regrettably, the Amazon also faces significant challenges and threats that cannot be overlooked:

Jeopardizing a Pillar of Life on Earth

  • Deforestation: In the last 50 years, at least 17% of the Amazon's forest cover has been lost, disrupting its connectivity and subjecting numerous endemic species to resource exploitation.
  • Climate Impact: The Amazon plays a critical role in maintaining regional and global climate functions, with its canopy cover regulating temperature, humidity, and hydrological cycles.
  • Carbon Storage: The Amazon stores 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, the release of which could significantly accelerate global warming. Land conversion and deforestation in the Amazon release up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year, making it an essential factor in regulating global climate.

Understanding the critical role of the Amazon's inhabitants, it becomes paramount for us to support its indigenous communities, primarily by avoiding actions that could lead to the destruction of this vital biome.

Deforestation of the Amazon
The deforestation of the Amazon accounts for 10,000 square kilometers per year driven by activities such as agriculture (especially cattle ranching and soybean farming), logging, mining, and infrastructure development
Deforestation of the Amazon by Fire
Natural causes such as lightning strikes can indeed cause fires, these are not a primary driver of deforestation in the Amazon

7 Simple Actions to Protect the Amazon Rainforest and Support Indigenous Communities

  • Avoid buying Amazon hardwoods: Choose sustainable and certified wood alternatives, such as bamboo, recycled or reclaimed wood, and products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
  • Say no to non-sustainable palm oil: Recognizing the significant impact of palm oil, which is present in 50% of consumer goods, including cosmetics, packaged food, and body lotion, and with a 485% increase in U.S. imports over the last decade, it's crucial to check labels on everyday products. Opt for items that use sustainably sourced palm oil or are palm oil-free to reduce deforestation and promote responsible consumption.
  • Support Indigenous Communities: Consider purchasing handmade crafts, art, and traditional medicines such as kambo, sananga or rapeh, along with other goods, directly from indigenous tribes or from suppliers who collaborate with them. This approach aids in preserving their traditional way of life and safeguards their land from encroachment.
  • Reduce meat consumption: The demand for beef contributes to Amazon deforestation. Consider reducing your meat intake or choosing sustainably raised, local, or plant-based alternatives.
  • Advocate for change: Raise awareness about the importance of the Amazon and its challenges by sharing information with friends, family, and local representatives, or participating in public demonstrations.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint: The Amazon plays a critical role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. Lower your own carbon footprint through energy conservation, using public transportation, or driving fuel-efficient vehicles to help combat climate change and protect the Amazon.
  • Educate yourself and others: Stay informed about the issues facing the Amazon and its indigenous communities. Share your knowledge to raise awareness and inspire action.
 Shipibo women with traditional craft
Shipibo-Conibo women, an indigenous group from the Peruvian Amazon, are renowned for their intricate and culturally significant crafts

Supporting Tribal People through Trade vs. Donating to Charities and Nonprofits

  • Direct Impact: Supporting tribal people through trade has a more direct impact on their lives and the conservation of the rainforest. This approach empowers local communities to make decisions about their land and resources, ensuring that they can preserve their culture and environment for future generations.

  • Indigenous Knowledge: Local people have a deep understanding of the rainforest, its ecosystems, and sustainable practices. By supporting them through direct trade, we can tap into their invaluable knowledge and expertise, leading to more effective conservation efforts.
  • Accountability and Transparency: Direct trade provides a clear and direct connection to the impact of your contributions on indigenous communities. While charities and nonprofits play a vital role in addressing social and environmental issues, it can sometimes be difficult to ensure that your donations are being used effectively and efficiently. By working with indigenous producers through direct trade, you can be sure that your support is being used directly to support their communities and traditional practices, promoting accountability and transparency for both the producer and the consumer.

  • Economic Empowerment: Direct trade with indigenous communities provides a powerful avenue for promoting self-sufficiency and economic empowerment. While charities also play an important role in providing temporary relief, engaging in direct trade helps to create sustainable, long-term solutions for preserving the rainforest and supporting local communities. By supporting the economic growth of indigenous producers through direct trade, we can empower communities to preserve their traditional practices and resources, and promote long-term, sustainable solutions for the benefit of all.
  • Building Relationships: Supporting tribal people through direct trade encourages mutual understanding and fosters relationships between communities and consumers. This connection helps raise awareness about the importance of preserving the Amazon rainforest and the unique cultures that inhabit it.

An Example of Building Trust and Cooperation: The Impact of Direct Trade on the Kaxinawá Tribe

A compelling example of the impact of direct trade and support can be seen in the case of the Kaxinawá tribe during the unusually heavy rains experienced in March of 2023. Many dwellings, crops, and livelihoods were adversely affected, leading the Kaxinawá to seek assistance. In response, Shamanic Supply paid ahead of time for a year's supply of the tribe's sacraments. This act of solidarity provided immediate relief and fostered a level of trust and cooperation that is not easily attained otherwise.

A Kaxinawá village destroyed after heavy flooding

Conclusion: Embracing Trade and Cultural Diversity for Conservation and Sustainability

The Amazon Biome, with its incredible natural and cultural diversity, is at a critical juncture. Supporting tribal people through trade is essential for preserving their cultures and the Amazon rainforest, which plays a vital role in maintaining our planet's ecosystems. By choosing to support local communities directly through trade, we can help secure a sustainable future for the Amazon and generations to come.

Investing in indigenous communities through trade fosters a more effective, accountable, and sustainable approach to conservation, ensuring the Amazon rainforest and its unique cultures will continue to thrive. While charities and non-profit organizations can also contribute to conservation efforts, direct trade can provide immediate relief and build trust and cooperation, as demonstrated by the Kaxinawa tribe's experience in 2023.

By supporting tribal people through trade, we promote self-sufficiency, economic empowerment, and a lasting positive impact on the Amazon Biome and its inhabitants. By embracing trade and cultural diversity, we work together to create a more sustainable and connected world.