The Amazon Basin - sometimes called Amazonia - was formed over 10 million years ago.
Today, the river is 6,750 km (4,080 miles) in length and supplies 20 percent of the Earth's freshwater while the rainforest covers a staggering 6,475,000 sq. km (2,525,250 sq. miles). A view of the rainforest canopy is show above.
The area spans a total of nine South American countries: Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Surinam, French Guiana, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.
There are three major cities in the region: Belém and Manaus (pictured right) in Brazil and Iquitos in Peru. Belém was given city status in 1665 and is a trading city whose development was accelerated by the rubber boom. Today it trades products such as Brazil nuts and wood.
Manaus is a port for ocean-going ships and an important manufacturing centre. It also has a large airport.
The Peruvian city of Iquitos expanded rapidly with the rubber boom like Belém but then suffered a decline. However, recent years have seen an increase in population and wealth.
The native people have farmed the land for centuries harvesting Brazil nuts, cocoa, vanilla oil and natural rubber. This sustainable farming does not damage the rainforest but recent large scale activities such as logging and ranching have destroyed some areas. There are now tighter controls in place to limit the environmental damage that can be made by such industries.
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