In Amazonia, changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events are occurring and expected to intensify, affecting food security with subsequent social and political problems. We conducted semi-structured interviews in communities of the mid-Solimões River basin (Amazonas, Brazil). Our questions were designed to construct seasonal calendars with residents (ribeirinhos) to understand climatic patterns and changes in livelihood activities, how traditional management is affected by extreme floods and droughts, and to identify their adaptation strategies in new climatic contexts. We studied three floodplain (várzea, n = 59 households) and three paleo-floodplain communities, situated 1–3 m higher than the floodplain (paleovárzea, n = 42 households). We show that these local communities have detailed knowledge of climate patterns and changes, and that they recognize that climatic unpredictability hinders effective planning of subsistence activities because their local knowledge is no longer fully reliable. Extreme climate events have consequences for their farming systems and associated agrobiodiversity, varying according to the degree of exposure of different environments to extreme events. During extreme events, ribeirinhos intensify adaptation strategies, such as avoiding stress to fruit-tree root systems, prioritizing plants that survive flooding, and working in less affected landscapes. Adaptation practices with long histories tend to occur more often in floodplains, and two adaptation practices were specific to floodplains. The impacts of extreme events on local communities are expected to increase, especially in environments more exposed to floods. Local residents suggest the documentation and sharing of adaptation strategies as a way to increase their resilience.
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Vol. 41 • No. 3