from the botanists a better picture of tree species distribution and habitats, and of the small communities made up by these tree species microdistributions.

During this 40 million years of Andean orogeny, there were three uplifts of crystalline rock across the Amazon, represented by the red arches in Figure 13–1. The two gray areas in the north and south are bedrock, the Guyana and Brazilian Shields. From this perspective, we now see the development of this mosaic of habitats, defined by the meandering river systems of the Amazon basin itself. The study of these rivers and the areas between them offers an interpretation of the events of the past (Erwin and Adis, 1982).

A mosaic component that extends throughout the Amazon basin is the oxbow lake, a lake formed when a loop of a river becomes isolated from the river as a result of sedimentation. The formation of an oxbow lake is the first stage in succession that culminates in forest. This small “island” of aquatic life will soon become an island of grassy life, which will then become an island of palm tree life and so on until it returns to climax inundation or upland forest of some type. During succession, it may be crosscut by another twist of the river or another small river, which will then subdivide it into four successional stages each with a different time differential. This kind of successional evolution on a massive 6-million-square-kilometer area is but one of the features that has provided the evolutionary pathway for Amazonia’s fantastic diversity.

What we see today from the air is a forest canopy that extends more or less unbroken across those 6-million-square kilometers, except for the rivers, the hy-

FIGURE 13–1 The South American land mass. The Guyana and Brazilian Shields are shown in gray; the hatched areas represent the three arches of crystalline rock.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement