The Rainforest And Brazil Essay Research Paper

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The Rainforest And Brazil Essay, Research Paper In contrast to the scrublands that border it to the south, the Amazonian rainforest and the waters that drain it have a remarkable abundance of plant and animal life, even though the ecosystem is a fragile one that can easily be destroyed. While giving the impression of monotony because of the apparently similar tree crowns that rise to a more or less uniform height of around 150 to 200 feet, these lands contain the greatest variety of plant species on Earth–many thousands, less than half of which have been identified. Furthermore, serving as a defense mechanism against blight and other natural enemies, individual plants of any species tend to be widely dispersed. A typical acre of forest in the Amazon may contain 250 or more

tree species, compared, for example, with perhaps a dozen in any acre of woods in the northeastern United States. Because the crowns of these forest giants form a virtually closed canopy, allowing 10 percent or less of the sunlight to filter through, there is little plant or animal life on the ground below. The trees, however, are festooned with a wide variety of epiphytes, bromeliads, and lianas, while their branches teem with animal life, from insects, snakes, and tree frogs to numerous species of monkeys and a bewildering variety of birds. Some 1,400 bird species have been identified in the immediate vicinity of the main stream of the Amazon alone, both in the treetops and within the complex ecosystem of the v rzea, the riverine lands. There, along the riverbanks, are also

found alligators, anacondas, boa constrictors, capybaras, and a number of lesser reptiles and mammals. In the waters themselves there are manatees, freshwater dolphins, and some 1,500 identified species of fish, with perhaps another 1,000 unidentified species; the variety includes many types of piranhas, not all of them flesh-eating, electric eels, and some 450 species of catfish. The Amazon is also home to the world’s largest fresh-water turtle, of the genus Podocnemis, extinct everywhere except there and on the island of Madagascar. Weighing an average of 150 pounds (70 kilograms), these turtles were once a mainstay of the Indian diet, and they remain a highly prized food source. Although the turtles were placed on the endangered species list, illicit turtle meat has

continued to be an available delicacy. Settlement patterns The settlement of what is now Brazil began many thousands of years ago with the arrival of the first tribes of Paleo-American Indians, migrants from North America who were probably of Asian origin. Nomadic hunters and gatherers, they inhabited the less hospitable parts of the country away from the larger rivers. By the time of the European arrival a second group had evolved, known collectively as the tropical forest Indians. Outnumbering the nomadic Indians, they were skilled farmers and fishermen who occupied the best lands of the Amazon and Paraguay river systems and most of the coastal plains, making up the bulk of the more than 2,000,000 native inhabitants of Brazil at the time of the European arrival. Coastal

settlements The first European occupants of Brazil, around the beginning of the 16th century, settled among the coastal Indian villages or at the trading posts that were established at Salvador and Cabo Frio. They exchanged hardware and trinkets with the Indians for brazilwood, which was used for making a rich, fire-coloured dye (brasa is the Portuguese word for “live coals”). By the second half of the 16th century sugarcane became dominant in the colonial economy, giving rise to a scattering of urban centres, among which Olinda and Salvador were the most important. By this time the coastal Indians had been decimated, and slaves from Africa were imported to work on the rapidly expanding plantations. The Southeast: mining and coffee The Southeast is Brazil’s most densely