The Amazon is one of the few continental regions where atmospheric aerosol particles and their effects on climate are not dominated by anthropogenic sources. During the wet season, the ambient conditions approach those of the pristine pre-industrial era. We show that the fine submicrometer particles accounting for most cloud condensation nuclei are predominantly composed of secondary organic material formed by oxidation of gaseous biogenic precursors. Supermicrometer particles, which are relevant as ice nuclei, consist mostly of primary biological material directly released from rainforest biota. The Amazon Basin appears to be a biogeochemical reactor, in which the biosphere and atmospheric photochemistry produce nuclei for clouds and precipitation sustaining the hydrological cycle. The prevailing regime of aerosol-cloud interactions in this natural environment is distinctly different from polluted regions.
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