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The Amazon is a region of superlatives it spans the borders of eight countries it is the worlds largest river basin and the source of one-fifth of the Earths freshwater it has the worlds highest diversity of birds and freshwater fish it is the planets largest and most luxuriant rainforest in which amazingly live more than one third of all species in the world But despite its natural richness the Amazon ecosystem is fragile and in peril In Brazil for instance illegal logging slash-and-burn agriculture and other human impacts are consuming the forest at the rate of over 9000 square miles per year WWF 2005 More than one third of all species in the world live in the Amazon a giant tropical forest with an area that stretches more than 15 million square miles and is among the richest tropical forests in the world High rainfall relatively complex topography and varied soils also contribute to the variety and abundance of life within the forest The Amazon forest has some 2500 tree species which are one third of the worlds tropical woods and nearly 30000 of Latin Americas 100000 plant species A large percentage of this remarkable regions original forested area is still intact with lowland tropical moist forests unique flooded savannas dotted with palm trees and bamboo-dominated forests blanketing an area the size of England Together they support the worlds highest diversity of freshwater fish birds and butterflies as well as many other kinds of organisms WWF 2005 The Amazon Basin is the largest river basin in the world covering close to 22 million square miles The Amazon River the second longest river in the world after the Nile stretches 4000 miles across South America to the Atlantic Ocean where it discharges approximately 46000 gallons per second or 20 percent of the combined discharge of all rivers on Earth The entire Amazon basin contains the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world estimated
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