Peru’s Amazon Jungle and Rainforest
The Peruvian rainforest
More than three quarters of the Peruvian territory lies east of the Andes. The jungle or Selva has two parts, the high and the low Selva. The high Selva is also known as the montaña or ceja de Selva literally eyebrow or fringe of the mountain; it lies at the feet of the Andes and grows in the slopes of the mountains. The low Selva is part of the world’s largest rain forest that extends to half the territory of Brazil.
The high Selva is dry on the west and richly forested on the east side. As the altitude decreases the scenery begins to change. From the dryer vegetation to low bushes and shrubs the climate becomes warmer and humid. As we move east toward the lowlands the mountain slopes are steep and the vegetation starts getting thicker as the altitude changes. The steep mountain slopes lead to relative flatlands of an altitude of approximately 500 feet or 150 meters where the low Selva begins. Within these slopes are found many valleys, rivers rapids, canyons and high waterfalls which flow to the Amazon system. The Apurimac River, which starts in the Andes, is the Amazon River’s greatest contributor.
These eastern slopes, also called cloud forest by biologists, are home to a rich variety of wildlife and vegetation which makes for a unique ecosystem partly due to its change in altitude. In this part of the jungle rain is not as heavy as in the deep rain forest; plants get their moisture from the mist formed from the warm air that rises from the lowlands. The local flora has adapted to absorb moisture from their leaves and not from their roots, some have virtually no roots at all, they are epiphytes.
Unique vegetation develops in this area like the giant begonia and more species of orchids than anywhere else in the world. This part of the jungle is very special because it contains many unique species of plants as well as animals. More than 20% of the world’s butterfly species live in this region. Animals like the spectacle bear, the size of the North American black bear, and the pygmy deer are species in danger. In order to preserve the area’s ecosystem the government of Peru has created Manu National Park which is one of the world’s most important wildlife reserves.
As we go deeper into the forest its vegetation becomes more dense and its wildlife more exotic. Visitors can see monkeys, colorful birds, snakes and butterflies when navigating along the Amazon River. The low selva is part of the endangered Amazon tropical rain forest. The tropical rain forest is swampy, humid and hot, its yearly rainfall stands at 103 in/262 cm. The average high temperature is 100F /37.7C and the low average temperature is 59F /15C.
A great part of the rain forest is still unexplored as the vegetation is so dense, it is believed that there are still indigenous groups that have not had contact with outsiders.
Protecting Peru’s Amazon Rainforest
Today many factors threaten the Peruvian rainforest. Overfishing and dam-building threaten the Amazon River and its ecosystem. Deforestation to clear land for mining, road building and agriculture destroys the habitat of plants and animals that live in the rain forest; it also contributes to the erosion of the soil creating mudslides.
Amazon rainforest canopy
Deforestation also contributes to global warming, about 50% of Peru’s carbon emissions is due to deforestation. Trees absorb carbon dioxide through their leaves, as there are fewer trees carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat close to the atmosphere contributing to the gradual increase in the Earth’s temperature.
Mercury is a silver poisonous metallic liquid used in the extraction of minerals that pollute the rivers in the rain forest. Mercury enters the food chain through microorganisms eaten by fish, as people eat fish they can become sick. The Peruvian government along with conservation agencies has set up a system ofnational parks and reserves to save Peru’s ecosystems and biodiversity. Manu National Park, Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene National Park are some examples of the effort to protect the fauna and flora of the Amazon region. Environmental organizations are working with local indigenous people and logging companies to protect trees, cutting only a few in small areas and not cutting vast areas of forest. Local Indians are also campaigning to protect areas that traditionally belong to them, preventing companies from setting operations in their land.
Mining and oil extraction are very controversial economic activities as they bring wealth and economic development but pollute the environment.
In terms of volume, the Amazon is the largest river in the world, it contains one fifth of the earth’s fresh water.
Between 1890 and 1920 the economy of the region suffer a boom due to the demand for its rubber.
The Amazon river is home to many species of animals and many of them are in danger of extinction. Some of them are the pink dolphin, the Amazonian manatee and the giant river otter.
Economic development is taking its toll among native Indians, many of them have fled deep inside the jungle, some have died of starvation and others have adapted to modern live.