Mark J. Plotkin
Oxford University Press
In this addition to the What Everyone Needs to Know® series, ecologist and conservationist Mark Plotkin offers an overview of Amazonia, the largest and most important rainforest and ecosystem in the world.
The Amazon is a land of superlatives. The complex ecosystem covers an area about the size of the continental U.S. The Amazon River discharges 57 million gallons of water per second--in two hours, this would be enough to supply all of New York City's 7.5 million residents with water for a year. Its flora and fauna are abundant. Approximately one of every four flowering plant species on earth resides in the Amazon. A single Amazonian river may contain more fish species than all the rivers in Europe combined. It is home to the world's largest anteater, armadillo, freshwater turtle, and spider, as well as the largest rodent (which weighs over 200 lbs.), catfish (250 lbs.), and alligator (more than half a ton). The rainforest, which contains approximately 390 billion trees, plays a vital role in stabilizing the global climate by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide--or releasing it into the atmosphere if the trees are destroyed. Severe droughts in both Brazil and Southeast Asia have been linked to Amazonian deforestation, as have changing rainfall patterns in the U.S., Europe, and China. The Amazon also serves as home to millions of people.Approximately seventy tribes of isolated and uncontacted people are concentrated in the western Amazon, completely dependent on the land and river. These isolated groups have been described as the most marginalized peoples in the western hemisphere, with no voice in the decisions made about their futures and the fate of their forests. In this addition to the What Everyone Needs to Know® series, ecologist and conservation expert, Mark J. Plotkin, who has spent 40 years studying Amazonia, its peoples, flora, and fauna. The Amazon offers an engaging overview of this irreplaceable ecosystem and the challenges it faces.
Oxford University Press; March 2020
Title: The Amazon
Series: What Everyone Needs to Know
Author: Mark J. Plotkin
Imprint: Oxford University Press
"Written in a clear and engaging style, Mark Plotkin's book on the Amazon comes at a crucial time, as more and more of Amazonia's forests are exploited and destroyed and as indigenous leaders, traditional guardians of the forest, are silenced. ÂI could not recommend it more highly." -- Jane Goodall
"At long last: the book on the Amazon we all have been waiting for, with the answers to questions everyone asks -- or should ask. Fascinating and superbly written." -- Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University
"Lucky me, I've traveled to the Amazon with Mark Plotkin. Reading his enthralling natural history of its mystery and wonders is the next best thing-and with fewer biting insects." -- Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group
"The greatest tropical forest, hemmed in by the longest mountain range, giving rise to the longest, most voluminous river, the wildest wilderness, and half the freshwater and terrestrial species found an Earth--that's what makes up the Amazon and that is what Mark Plotkin evokes in this lively and authoritative guide, based on his decades of experience." -- Adrian Forsyth, Executive Director, Andes Amazon FundÂ
About The Author
Mark J. Plotkin is President of the Amazon Conservation Team. He is the author of Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, Medicine Quest, and coauthored The Killers Within.
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Table of Contents
- half title
- The Amazon
- 1 Introduction
- What is a tropical rainforest?
- What do we mean when we say “the Amazon”?
- What makes the Amazon important?
- 2 Geology, Soils, and Vegetation
- What is the geological history of Amazonia?
- Do large and diverse Amazonian rainforests thrive on poor soils?
- What is terra preta?
- How does nutrient cycling help lush rainforests flourish?
- What are the major forest and vegetation types in Amazonia?
- What are savannas, and how are they created?
- What are tepuis, and what makes them unique?
- 3 Rivers
- Where does the Amazon River begin?
- What are the various river types in Amazonia?
- What are some of the characteristic aquatic habitats in Amazonia?
- What is the Casiquiare Canal?
- Is there a coral reef in the Amazon?
- 4 Amazonian Biota
- What is ayahuasca?
- Why are bromeliads known as the aerial aquaria of the Amazon?
- What is the traditional use of coca in the northwest Amazon?
- What is curare, and why is it important?
- Why are lianas so important, and yet so poorly understood?
- What are strangler figs, and why are they not considered to be lianas?
- Why are palms the most useful group of plants to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon?
- Did an Amazonian water lily serve as the inspiration for steel frame architecture?
- What is the origin of Amazonian fauna?
- Do vampire bats drink human blood?
- How dangerous are Amazonian spiders?
- What are Amazonia’s most formidable predators?
- Are there hallucinogenic frogs in the Amazon rainforest?
- Are there pink dolphins in the Amazon?
- Why does Amazonia harbor the most diverse freshwater fish fauna in the world?
- Is the tiny candiru catfish as terrifying as its reputation?
- How dangerous are electric eels?
- Do piranhas attack humans?
- Are there sharks in the Amazon?
- 5 Indigenous Peoples
- When did the first humans arrive in Amazonia?
- How many people were living in Amazonia in 1492?
- What are the indigenous languages in Amazonia, and why is it important to study them?
- What is a shaman?
- Are shrunken heads fact or fiction?
- What is slash-and-burn agriculture?
- Do uncontacted and isolated tribes still exist?
- 6 History
- What was the Treaty of Tordesillas?
- Who were the conquistadors, and why was Lope De Aguirre considered the worst?
- What role did Pedro Teixeira play in the colonization of the Amazon?
- What is the history of the mapping of the Amazon?
- Who was the first European scientific explorer of the Amazon?
- What is the connection between the Amazon and the origins of the theory of evolution?
- Did Harvard send an expedition to the Amazon to disprove Darwin’s theory of evolution?
- How did Amazonian rubber become a key global commodity?
- What effect did the rubber industry have on Amazonia?
- What was Fordlandia?
- What was the Jari Project, and why did it fail?
- Has Amazonia produced any heroes?
- 7 Amazonia’s Uncertain Future
- Is cattle ranching a major cause of Amazonian deforestation?
- What is the status of hydroelectric dams in Amazonia?
- What is the impact of gold mining in Amazonia?
- What is the role of large-scale agricultural production in deforestation?
- What is the role of small-scale farming in deforestation?
- Who farms in Amazonia?
- What is the status and impact of logging in Amazonia?
- How will climate change affect Amazonia and vice versa?
- What is the Trans-Amazon Highway, and how has it driven deforestation?
- What is the impact of oil and gas exploration and extraction on local peoples?
- What is the impact of overhunting and overfishing in Amazonia?
- What impact is China having on Amazonia?
- What caused the Amazon fires of 2019?
- 8 Conclusion
- How can Amazonia be saved?
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