Intro: Amazon Ecoregions and Ecology

The FAO global ecological zones provide a general overview of the habitat types of the Amazon region and South America. Ecoregions or biomes are large geographic units that encompass areas of unique ecological characteristics, often of a similar forest or vegetation type. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature has developed a worldwide map of terrestrial  ecoregions, classified into groups such as tropical broadleaf forest, temperate coniferous forest, or mangrove. See a description of this mapping tool online at WWF or published in the BioScience 2001

The Amazon basin contains a variety of habitats of rainforest, flooded riparian forest, seasonal forest, and even savannah. Most of the interior forest of the region is rainforest, and riverine areas contain várzea or flooded forest habitat. Much of the southeast border of the Amazon is seasonal forest, marked by a distinct wet and dry season, where fires are a common element of the landscape. Further south and east is the Cerrado savannah ecoregion, significantly drier than the interior Amazon forest. 

The delineation of the Amazon basin includes the hydrographic area that drains into the Amazon River. Areas sometimes described as the Amazon biome extend even further, including the rainforests of the Guyana shield in the north and the Chiquitano dry forest of Bolivia. While most of these areas do not drain into the Amazon River, they include similar habitat types as found in the Amazon rainforest. See the following pages to read more about ecoregions, forest ecology, and climate & fire in the Amazon basin.