Water, lots of water, largely makes the Amazon what it is, especially the largest tropical rainforest and river system in the world. From the high snow-capped Andes to the vast estuary more than 5,000 km downstream, various types of wetlands support our planet’s highest aquatic biodiversity. This biological richness is also a foundation for human wellbeing.
Yet the Amazon Basin also offers great natural resources of major economic value beyond just local areas. The Andes in the west, and ancient uplands in the east have large-scale hydroelectric potential and both the highlands and lowlands have valuable mineral resources. Agronomists have now learned to farm poor tropical soils and industrialized agricultural is rapidly expanding along the new road and highway network that is crisscrossing the Amazon Basin. The Amazon Waters Initiative presents the Amazon Basin as an interlinked terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem where not only are its tropical forests important for biodiversity and carbon storage, but its vast waters, wetlands and basins add an additional dimension needed for its proper conservation. By understanding the connectivity of this vast, interlinked and dynamic freshwater system, a scientific framework can be constructed to inform development investment and conservation at the same time.