Om Amazonian Rain Forests
DEVELOPMENT AND DISTURBANCE IN AMAZON FORESTS Contrasting Impressions 6 2 The rain forests of the Amazon Basin cover approximately 5.8 x 10 km (Salati and Vose 1984). Flying over even just part of this basin, one gazes hour after hour upon this seemingly infinite blanket of green. The impression of immen- sity is similar when viewed from the Amazon River itself, or from its tributar- ies. From a hammock on the shaded deck of a riverboat, the immensity of the forest presents an incredible monotony as one view of the shoreline blends unnoticeably into another. From both perspectives, the overwhelming reaction to the sea of trees that stretches from horizon to horizon is a sense of the vastness of the rain forest. In September 1985, I got a different impression of the rain forest. Several students and I journeyed in a self-propelled car along the single-track railroad that stretches almost 1000 km from the Carajas iron ore mine in the rain forest of Para State, Brazil, all the way to Sao Luis on the coast (Fig. 1.1).