Amazoniathe watershed that feeds into the Amazon River and its tributariescovers more than two million square miles in nine South American countries and is home to at least 40,000 species of trees, ferns, and flowering plants. Despite decades of deforestation, most of it is still forested, making it the world's largest intact forest.
The qualities that make the Amazonian forest so valuableits geographic size and diverse plant lifealso create the greatest challenges to managing and conserving it. Stretching across an area larger than the continental United States, the region is home to more than 16,000 species of trees. By comparison, there are fewer than 1,000 tree species in the U.S. and Canada. Two-and-a-half acres can contain as many as 300 species of trees, some of which are rare, endangered, or not yet named. Vast areas remain unexplored botanically.
The Amazonian forest stabilizes the climate of South America and sequesters carbon, and the watershed of the Amazon River accounts for about 20 percent of Earth's flowing fresh water. However, ongoing large-scale disruption of this ecosystemdue to agriculture, logging, and settlementis causing tremendous damage to the forest's most basic functions. That is why the sustainable use of the Amazonian forest and the preservation of its biological diversity are ecological imperatives. Achieving them depends heavily on continuing and even accelerating the work of documenting the Amazon's plant life and improving mankind's scientific understanding of key tree families.
Four Paths to a Better Baseline in the Brazilian Amazon
The Garden's A Better Baseline program comes at a critical juncture for Amazonia. Brazil is opening up millions of acres of national forestland there to logging concessions for selective harvest. At the same time, the country is embarking on a massive effort to inventory the forests of the entire region to bette
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The New York Botanical Garden