Priority Landscape Stories

Protecting the Amazon

The Amazon Rainforest is Earth's greatest reserve of life. Explore how our lives are tied to this unique place and how we can protect it.

Clusters of stars and the milky way galaxy appear in a darkening sky over tropical rainforest and a river
AMAZONIAN MILKY WAY View of the night sky illuminating the Manicore river, located in the municipality of Manicore, Amazonas state, Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest. © Mauro Pimentel/TNC Photo Contest 2022

The Amazon is the world's largest river basin and largest tropical forest—and much more. It's a vital force for maintaining Earth's delicate balance and a key player in addressing the climate and biodiversity crises.

Young green parrot with big black eyes and an orange beak and yellow wing tips with jungle foliage in the background
Parrot in Peruvian Amazon A young parrot in the Upper Itaya River Basin within the Peruvian Amazon. © Isaura Noemí Soplin Ochoa/TNC Photo Contest 2019

What happens in the Amazon affects all of us. The carbon stored in this colossal forest helps keep the climate liveable across the planet. The rainforest influences rainfall and weather around the world. Its mighty rivers account for one quarter of the available freshwater on Earth. 

Despite its importance, the Amazon faces unprecedented threats, primarily driven by rampant deforestation. In the past 50 years, the Amazon has lost nearly 20% of the forest in Brazil. Too often, this destruction leads to low-yielding cropfields and cattle pastures—and more forest loss.

But it's not too late. One of the reasons for hope is agroforestry, a game-changing approach to agriculture that can help break this cycle of degradation. Farmers like Brazil's Rosely Dias are leading the way.

Immersive Video

Visit an Amazon Food Forest

Nourishing Communities (6:12) Join Rosely Dias on a tour of her farm in the Brazilian Amazon and see what's different. By planting and maintaining different native tree species, Rosely is growing a food forest that enriches soils while providing streams of income from products like cocoa.
A crouching man moves green and yellow cacao beans from a pile to a wheelbarrow under a forest canopy
Forest Cocoa Damião Dias harvests cacao in the sustainable agroforest that he and his wife Rosely have cultivated in São Félix do Xingu, Pará state, Brazil. © Maíra Erlich

The Potential in Food-Producing Forests

Agroforestry is about planting and maintaining different native trees in agricultural landscapes that keep land healthy and productive. This natural climate solution keeps more rainforest standing, restores native trees, supports our climate and biodiversity and improves income for farmers through valuable tree crops like cocoa.

The Nature Conservancy is working with over 500 farmers like Rosely through the Forest Cocoa initiative. And there are more than 1.4 million small farms in the Amazon. The opportunity is enormous for this solution to help change the story of deforestation.

Illustrated map of northern South America, with the Amazon basin outlined in blue across several countries
The Amazon Rainforest Spanning nine countries and over two million square miles, the Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world. © TNC

A Refresher on the Amazon

Welcome to the Amazon, a natural masterpiece that stretches across nine countries in Latin America, home to a staggering 10% of the world’s known species, including endangered pink river dolphins, jaguars, macaws, tamarins and tree frogs.

There are more than 2,700 known fish species in the Amazon Basin (1,900 of which are endemic), which amounts to roughly 8% of the world's fish species. Roughly 35 new species are described every year at an average of one every 10 days.

More than just it’s amazing diversity of life, the Amazon River is a life source for more than 47 million people living on its riverbanks and throughout its basin. Nearly 2.2 million Indigenous People, representing more than 400 different ethnic groups, call the basin home.

Above the rainforest canopy, a "river in the sky" transports moisture that regulates rainfall across Latin America and beyond, impacting food production across hemispheres.  

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flames reach the top of trees and shrubs in a dry forest.
Burning forest Trees burn in the Chiquitania, a dry forest transition zone between the Amazon rainforest and the Gran Chaco lowlands in eastern Bolivia. © Marcelo Perez del Carpio/TNC Photo Contest 2022

Amazon Threats and Tipping Points

Despite its critical importance to the planet, the Amazon faces unprecedented threats. Hydroelectric dams, invasive species and pollution continue to degrade its waters. Mining and urban sprawl stress rainforest ecosystems, but no threat outweighs rampant deforestation.

The current pace of deforestation propels us toward an irreversible tipping point, potentially transforming up to half of the rainforest into a fire-prone savanna.

The consequences of such a transformation would be nothing short of catastrophic for our climate. The Amazon's fate is intertwined with our collective choices and demands a concerted effort to protect and preserve this invaluable ecosystem. In this critical juncture, every action matters.

Dorado Catfish The Dorado—or golden catfish—has the longest migration of any freshwater fish in the world. © Juan Sebastian Sanchez/TNC

Epic: The 11,000 km Migration of the Amazon's Dorado Catfish

From the Amazon River headwaters high in the Andes mountains to the river’s mouth at the Atlantic Ocean—and back again—the Dorado catfish (Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii) records the longest migration of any freshwater fish in the world.

Watch the Documentary Below

Through the eyes of the Dorado catfish, the short documentary below explores the importance of protecting the Amazon River for its unparalleled biodiversity and the Indigenous People and Local Communities that depend on it.


The Great Migration of the Dorado Catfish

Connecting Communities (23:20) The Dorado catfish connects the rivers and people of the Amazon basin as it journeys on the longest freshwater migration in the world. This short doc explores the importance of protecting the Amazon for its unparalleled biodiversity and the Indigenous People and Local Communities that depend on it.
a young man in a paddle boat on a river.
Brazilian Amazon Tekakro Xikrin fishing on Rio Bacaja near the village of Pot-Kro, in the Brazilian Amazon. © Kevin Arnold

Indigenous Leadership

The forests, waters and species of the Amazon are intrinsic parts of the identities, traditions and livelihoods of millions of Indigenous People and Local Communities living throughout the Amazon.

Indigenous Peoples living throughout the Amazon basin play an essential role in its stewardship now and in the future. Indigenous territories and protected areas cover around 50% of the Amazon basin. Today, Indigenous territories are the best conserved portion of the Amazon, with even lower rates of deforestation than national parks.

Elevating Indigenous Peoples' and Local Communities' rights, tenure and roles as natural stewards of the environment are critical elements of TNC’s conservation efforts in the Amazon.