Why Is the Amazon River Important?

Leonora Enking/CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Amazon River supplies more fresh water to the world’s oceans than any other river. It also has the more tributaries than any other river and the world’s largest watershed. Though a National Geographic article published in 2007 offers some evidence that the Amazon is the longest river in the world, most experts still place it in second place behind the Nile River.

The importance of the Amazon River is not defined solely by its size. It is the life-blood of an incredibly vast and diverse rain forest. This tropical rain forest is the largest in the world. It overlaps the boundaries of nine countries and the wildlife is so abundant that an estimated one-third of the world’s animal species can be found there. Some of the most well-known animals from the region are the jaguar, ocelot and the three-toed sloth. The waters of the Amazon are also teaming with life, and some estimates place the number of fish species as high as 5,000.

The interior of the Amazon Basin saw little development until the 20th century, and the area remained largely inaccessible and uncultivated. Since then, a network of highways has been built linking major cities and allowing greater access to available resources. Still, as of 2014, the region contains huge areas of rainforests, grasslands and savannahs that remain undeveloped.