The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world, covering more than half of Brazil with its dense foliage and abundant plant life. In spite of all the attention the Amazon has received, scientists have barely begun to catalog the incredible variety of lifeforms it contains. This rich region, teeming with flora and fauna has many things useful for humans, and as scientists explore more deeply, more will be discovered.
One of the most important functions of the Amazon rainforest is its production of oxygen. According to rain-tree.com, the Amazon rainforest covers more than 1 billion acres and produces more than 20 percent of the earth's oxygen. The rainforest also recycles a huge amount of carbon dioxide every year, helping to stabilize the earth's climate.
The Amazon rainforest basin has vast mineral deposits. Gold, copper, lead and other metals, as well as diamonds are mined in the rainforest. Gold mining in particular has been a lucrative business since the discovery of gold in the Amazon in 1980. Unfortunately, the Brazilian gold rush has not been environmentally regulated, and mercury, sediment, oil, human sewage and trash from the mining operation have contaminated the river, harming animals, plants and human communities near the mines.
The Amazon rainforest is home to many useful plants. It is home to a wealth of medicinal plants such as quinine which is used to treat malaria and the foxglove plant which yields the heart medicine digitalis. Because only fewer than 1 percent of tropical plants have been tested, there may be many more medicinal plants in the Amazon. The Amazon also produces a number of foods such as the Brazil nut and the cocoa plant, which is the source of chocolate.