Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest
(Scientists in the Field series)
Written by Sy Montgomery; Photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
Houghton & Mifflin, Harcourt. 2017
Grades 4 and up
This week, we return to the Amazon in this new entry in the Scientists in the Field series. We travel to the Amazon basin, the planet’s richest ecosystem, but instead of searching for the mythical city of Z, award-winning author, Sy Montgomery explains how a group of local fishers - men and women (piabeiros), and some tiny fish, just may be the answer to saving this delicate habitat.
Covering 2,670,000 square feet, the Amazon rainforest is essential to our planet. Because its trees provide a full fifth of the world’s oxygen, it’s considered “the lungs of the world.” Five hundred species make their home in the basin. From frogs to insects, where a butterfly’s wing can grow as big as your hand. Yet it all could vanish—and soon. Each year mining, clearcutting, burning, and cattle ranching destroy an area of Amazon forest twice the size of the city of Los Angeles.” That's 2.7 million acres destroyed ever year!
Montgomery travels with scientist Scott Dowd, senior aquarist with the New England Aquarium in Boston, to Brazil’s Rio Negro river, one of the two main arteries that join to form the Amazon River. It’s here that dozens of species of fish, — locals call them piaba (pee-AH-bah), meaning “small fry” or “pip-squeak”, are prized the world over in freshwater aquariums, especially the Cardinal Tetra. In 1991, Project Piaba was officially founded by Dr. Ning Labbish Chao, then a professor at University of Amazon. Their slogan, “Buy a Fish, save a tree” aims to connect hobbyists and professional aquarists around the world with the people who provide their fish. Together, they can help support the health of the jungle environment that the fish, the piabeiros (local fishers), and more than a thousand other species - including humans - depend on to survive.”
On their adventure, Montgomery and photographer Keith Ellenbogen travel farther up stream to the village of Barcelos to join in the celebration of the Festival of Ornamental Fish. A famous celebration to honor the little fish that are the life blood of this town.
Similar in format, the titles in this series are a treasure trove for budding scientists. As always, Montgomery’s writing is engaging as she makes science accessible and exciting to readers. Chapters are separated by short, interesting side stories.
I first heard about Project Piaba a few years ago when my local aquarium store offered to set up a fresh water aquarium at my local library. We have Serpae and Rummy-nose Tetras that came from Rio Negro river! Kids are fascinated by the tiny fish. It is the first, and last thing they visit in the Youth Services area.
Listen to an interview with Sy discussing her Amazon adventure and Project Piabab at WGBH radio.
Project Piaba is not just about some little fish; it’s a solution to global problems.
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write the review.
Note: While Cathy Potter is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy returns February 2018.