Peru // The jungle //

Amazon ecology: the basics


At about six times the size of England, or approximately the size of California, the tangled, sweltering Amazon Basin rarely fails to capture the imagination of anyone who ventures beneath its dense canopy. In the lowland areas, away from the seasonally flooded riverbanks, the landscape is dominated by red, loamy soil, which can reach depths of 50m. Reaching upwards from this, the primary forest – mostly comprising a huge array of tropical palms, with scatterings of larger, emergent tree species – regularly achieves evergreen canopy heights of 50m. At ground level the vegetation is relatively open (mostly saplings, herbs and woody shrubs), since the trees tend to branch high up, restricting the amount of light available. At marginally higher altitudes, a large belt of cloud forest (ceja de selva) sweeps the eastern edges of the Andes, stunningly beautiful and the most biodiverse of the rainforest zones.

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