This article presents the scientific rationale for an ambitious ICDP drilling project to continuously sample Late Cretaceous to modern sediment in four different sedimentary basins that transect the equatorial Amazon of Brazil, from the Andean foreland to the Atlantic Ocean. The goals of this project are to document the evolution of plant biodiversity in the Amazon forests and to relate biotic diversification to changes in the physical environment, including climate, tectonism, and the surface landscape. These goals require long sedimentary records from each of the major sedimentary basins across the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, which can only be obtained by drilling because of the scarcity of Cenozoic outcrops. The proposed drilling will provide the first long, nearly continuous regional records of the Cenozoic history of the forests, their plant diversity, and the associated changes in climate and environment. It also will address fundamental questions about landscape evolution, including the history of Andean uplift and erosion as recorded in Andean foreland basins and the development of west-to-east hydrologic continuity between the Andes, the Amazon lowlands, and the equatorial Atlantic. Because many modern rivers of the Amazon basin flow along the major axes of the old sedimentary basins, we plan to locate drill sites on the margin of large rivers and to access the targeted drill sites by navigation along these rivers.
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