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Severe Drought in the Amazon Rainforest is Destroying Ecosystems and Communities

There is currently an intense drought in the Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest rainforest and the location of one-third of all freshwater, fueled by climate change. Scientists have recorded the lowest water levels in almost 120 years in the numerous rivers branching off of the main Amazon River.

An aerial view shows the Tumbira River, which has been affected by the drought of Negro River, at a Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve, in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil, October 7, 2023. (REUTERS/Bruno Kelly/File Photo)
An aerial view shows the Tumbira River, which has been affected by the drought of Negro River, at a Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve, in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil, October 7, 2023. (REUTERS/Bruno Kelly/File Photo)

The Amazon Rainforest covers around 6.7 million square kilometers and houses 10 percent of all known species living on Earth. It also is home to 47 million people, including 2 million Indigenous people. These people rely on the rainforest for food, water, and natural resources, all of which are in danger during a prolonged drought.

Contributing to the drought are human practices such as deforestation, fossil-fuel usage, and oil spills, which are harming the rainforest’s biodiversity and leaving it more fragile. Specifically, deforestation worsens droughts since trees play a critical role in transporting via transpiration. Transpiration is the process of releasing water into the atmosphere through evaporation from their leaves.

As temperatures have risen due to climate change, droughts have become more common and more extreme. Droughts are usually characterized by abnormally low rainfall leading to severe water shortages within the nearby area. The Amazonian drought is causing major rivers to reach dangerously low levels, endangering and killing numerous aquatic animals, including the already endangered pink dolphins. Many animals within the rainforest are accustomed to a tropical climate, meaning that droughts can cause significant population declines and could even lead to a species’s extinction.

Not only is the drought hurting the animal ecosystems, but it is also affecting many Indigenous communities. Many Indigenous communities travel through the rainforest by boat. However, the low levels of water are limiting that mode of transportation and isolating thousands of people. Brazilian government officials have had to deliver basic necessities such as food and medicine by helicopter to many communities who were left stranded.

Additionally, some of these communities do not have clean drinking water. Wells, rivers, and streams—all common sources of water—have dried up. Thus, many are forced to use contaminated water, worrying officials that the hot water could allow mosquitoes to breed, thereby transferring malaria and dengue. Many children and elderly are getting sick as a result of drinking unclean water. As of October 16, officials estimate the drought has affected as many as 500,000 people, prompting nonprofit workers to start relief efforts, transporting materials to and from the affected communities.

Scientists see no end in sight for the Amazon drought, speaking to the uncertainty surrounding it for Indigenous communities, animal ecosystems, and local governments, only exacerbating the dangers of the crisis.

How can you help?

  1. Writing for Kids Fight Climate Change: If you are interested in making climate change news more accessible, you should consider joining us! Check out this link: Join the Team | Kids Fight Climate Change: Youth Climate Education

  2. Volunteering at advocacy groups. VolunteerMatch is a great resource to find volunteer opportunities, virtual and in-person. Check out this link: VolunteerMatch

  3. If neither of those options applies to you, there are still ways to raise awareness! Simply by sharing articles such as this one, you are doing your part to spread important climate information. That is activism.


Hausfather, Zeke. 2023. “I Study Climate Change. The Data Is Telling Us Something New.” The New York Times. The New York Times. October 13.

“Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest Faces a Severe Drought That May Affect around 500,000 People.” 2023. AP News. AP News. September 27.

Reuters. 2023. “Amazon Rivers Fall to Lowest Levels in 121 Years amid a Severe Drought.” CNN. Cable News Network. October 17.

Watts, Jonathan. 2023. “Drought Turns Amazonian Capital into Climate Dystopia.” The Guardian. October 18.

Reuters. 2023a. “Amazon Rainforest Port Records Lowest Water Level in 121 Years amid Drought.” NBCNews.Com. NBCUniversal News Group. October 16.

Ionova, Ana, and Manuela Andreoni. 2023. “A Severe Drought Pushes an Imperiled Amazon to the Brink.” The New York Times. The New York Times. October 17.


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