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Global Rivers Project: Amazon

The Amazon is a place of superlatives. This massive river watershed stretches over seven million square kilometers--30% of the entire South American continent. The amount of water pumping downstream to the Atlantic Ocean is greater than the next seven largest rivers combined (the equivalent of ten Mississippi Rivers). Surrounding this network of waterways is the largest and most species-rich tropical rainforest in the world. However, since the 1960s, nearly a fifth of that rainforest has been destroyed to make room for cattle pasture and agricultural (primarily soya) fields. In addition to the loss of biodiversity, deforestation also impacts the global carbon/climate cycle. To better understand these changes--and the critical link between land and river--scientists from the Woods Hole Research Center and colleagues from Brazil's Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará (UFOPA) are creating a long-term monitoring project to measure the health of the Amazon River.