The flying river
High above the lush canopy of the Amazon rainforest, a majestic river flows silently, carrying more water than even the mighty Amazon River itself. Unlike traditional rivers such as the Amazon or the Xingu that meander through the landscape, these “flying rivers” are atmospheric currents that transport water vapor. Traveling across the continent, these ethereal rivers headed for the Andes, are blessing numerous regions with life-sustaining rain across international borders.
Capturing a clear view of the Amazon from space presents a unique challenge. The constant flow of water vapor in clouds above the region creates a veil, making it difficult for satellites to capture detailed images of this vast and vital ecosystem.
photo: Cristina Mittermeier
The significance of these flying rivers in terms of food security and maintaining ecological balance is immeasurable. Let’s delve into the scientific wonders of these atmospheric phenomena and uncover the profound relationship between these life-giving currents and the indigenous communities that have been the guardians of the rainforest for generations.
A “biotic pump”
A single large tree in the region can release approximately 264 gallons of water daily.
There are an estimated
individual trees in the Amazon rainforest.
It’s the trees!
Trees are the highways of water molecules that make up this river in the sky that is even bigger than the Amazon river itself.
The biotic pump theory is a concept that redefines our understanding of the Amazon rainforest’s role in the water cycle. According to this theory, the forests in the Amazon act as a substantial pump, generating negative pressure that attracts moist air inland through suction. This mechanism, involving the transpiration of water by trees, initiates a series of events ensuring additional rainfall. This phenomenon challenges and revises prior scientific assumptions.
What if the pump shuts down?
Deforestation poses a grave threat to the Amazon’s biotic pump, disrupting the intricate atmospheric process that ensures life-sustaining rain. The Amazon is facing increasing aridity, posing risks locally and globally. Deforestation is a key contributor, reducing water released through evapotranspiration and causing a drop in rainfall.The negative pressure system, driven by the colossal pump of countless trees, weakens as deforestation accelerates. The delicate balance supporting this ecosystem is unraveling before our eyes. We stand on the precipice of witnessing not only dramatic changes in the Amazon, leading to the loss of species, but also a profound impact on food production across the entire region, which heavily depends on consistent rainfall.
The importance of Kayapo’s Land
In the heart of South East Amazonia, a significant battleground against deforestation emerges—a vast expanse of pristine rainforest staunchly guarded by the Kayapo. Within this region lies the last bastion of large, untouched native forest, a critical link connecting the southeastern Amazon to the western Amazon. The Kayapo’s custodianship extends beyond the immediate landscape, offering immeasurable benefits in terms of biodiversity preservation, climate change mitigation, and the essential role of Amazonian forests in generating rainfall across vast geographic expanses.
The positioning and sheer expanse of their rainforest play a pivotal role in facilitating the movement of atmospheric moisture deeper into the continent. While the precise number of trees remains speculative, what is certain is the impact of the 10 million hectares of protected rainforest under the watchful stewardship of the Kayapo NGO Alliance. This substantial area has, for the most part, remained untouched and wild—a testament to the alliance’s dedication to preserving the invaluable ecosystems that are vital not only to the local environment but to the broader ecological health of the Amazon and beyond.
photo: Simone Giovine
“I will plant Brazil nut seedlings that will grow and give fruit. When I die, my children, my grandchildren, and the grandchildren of my grandchildren are going to be able to see them grow. When I no longer exist they will remember that I planted these Brazil nut trees with my own hands for them to break open and eat the nuts.”- Kayapo man
The relationship between the Kayapo, their ancestral lands, and the intricate web of life in South East Amazonia unveils a profound interconnectedness. Atmospheric currents, much like the beating heart of nature, recognize no borders. For instance, as guardians trees in their land, the Kayapo not only secure sustenance for themselves but, in doing so, become stewards of a vital ecosystem. The repercussions of their efforts extend far beyond Kayapo territory, influencing the broader climate patterns that shape not just South East Amazonia but impact the world at large.
Become an ally
Join the Kayapo NGO Alliance. By supporting their initiatives, you contribute to the preservation of invaluable ecosystems, the mitigation of climate change, and the protection of regional food security. The alliance stands as a beacon of hope, a collective force that understands the profound truth—nature’s well-being is inseparable from our own.