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Seasons of Change in the Amazon printer.gif

Tropical areas, such as the Amazon rainforest, don’t have seasons like spring, summer, autumn and winter. Instead, seasons in the Amazon are divided into the dry season and the wet season, each lasting about six months.

People use boats instead of cars to travel to school and to work.

In the Amazon, the wettest part of the wet season occurs between December and May. During the wet season, the Amazon rainforest receives an impressive 6 to 12 feet or more of rain! Surprisingly, during the driest part of the dry season (June through August) the Amazon rainforest receives an average of only about 6 inches of rain. Right now, we’re paddling during the end of the rainy season. We have gone through some pretty amazing rainstorms in the last week.


People have adapted to seasonal flooding by building houses on stilts.

The large quantity of rain that falls in the Amazon rainforest during the wet season causes the mighty Amazon River to rise and fall by as much as 40 feet each year. The annual rise in the river’s water level causes flooding throughout the Amazon rainforest. Right now, there is very little shoreline that we paddle by. But, in the dry season, there are sandy beaches along much of the river bank.

Fortunately, the trees, plants and animals in Amazon rainforest have learned to adapt to this seasonal flooding. During the flooded times of the year, aquatic animals such as fish, turtles, and dolphins are able to reach areas that would normally be impossible to swim to. The water floods the forest, and the animals are able to swim throughout the forest to find food.

From December through May, much of the Amazon rainforest is flooded. Canoes are the perfect way of navigating through the woods. During June - September, people are able to walk using paths through the forest.

Plants also have to adapt to changing water levels. Many trees in the rainforest have developed bark that doesn’t rot. So, when the water floods the forest, the trees are still able to survive. Some trees also anchor themselves to the ground using buttress roots, which grow like a tent-frame. Buttress roots prevent the tree from falling over (hence the name buttress) and help gather more nutrients.

Trees have adapted to seasonal flooding by developing roots that grow above ground. These are called buttress roots.

Humans typically find it harder to adjust to nature’s ways than plants and animals. Flooding is a huge problem for people who live around the Amazon’s flood banks. These residents have learned to adapt to the large amounts of rain by building their houses on stilts. Unfortunately, some humans have been clearing rainforest land for cattle, farming and agriculture, and logging. We’ve witnessed this a lot during the past week. Cow farms, called fundos, are quite common to find between communities and villages.

The changes in the Amazon rainforest’s climate are affecting us too. The Earth depends on the tropical rainforests to absorb carbon dioxide from the air and to convert it into oxygen. In fact, the Amazon rainforest alone produces more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen supply! By absorbing carbon dioxide and giving us clean air to breathe, tropical forests help regulate the world’s temperatures and weather patterns, creating livable climates for plants, animals and people all over the world. Unfortunately, as the rainforest disappears, more carbon dioxide and less oxygen are released into the air. As a result, temperatures increase and global weather patterns change. As weather patterns change so do the seasons. Therefore, it is extremely important for all of us to learn about the Amazon and other tropical rainforests and the critical role they play in the survival of our planet.
How does the forest benefit from the annual floods? Does the flooding encourage or restrict travel in the rainforest?

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