Extractive reserves account for a significant proportion of the remaining intact forest within Brazilian Amazonia. Managers of extractive reserves need to understand the livelihood strategies adopted by rural Amazonians in order to implement projects that benefit the livelihoods of local residents whilst maintaining forest integrity. Whilst resident populations are often descended from immigrant rubber-tappers, dynamic economic and social conditions have led to a recent diversification of land-use practices. This two-year study in two large contiguous extractive reserves encompassing both unflooded (terra firme) and seasonally flooded (várzea) forest, shows the degree to which local livelihood strategies of different settlements are heterogeneous. Extractive offtake of forest products and fish catches and agricultural activities, together with income from sales, for 82 households in 10 communities were quantified in detail by means of weekly surveys. The survey data were combined with interviews to examine the demographic and wealth profile, and engagement in alternative activities, in 181 households across 27 communities. All households and communities were engaged in all three subsistence activity types, but there was large variation in engagement with income-generating activities. Households within a community showed considerable congruence in their income-generating activity profiles, but there was significant variation between communities. Yields from agriculture and fishing were more temporally stable than extraction of highly-seasonal forest products. Generalized linear mixed models showed that forest type was consistently important in explaining yields of both agrarian and extractive products. Communities with greater access to terra firme forest were inherently more agricultural, and strongly committed to manioc production. Communities with greater access to flooded forest, however, showed a greater dependence on fishing. Conservation should be more attuned to the diversity and dynamism of livelihood strategies in protected areas; in particular, reserve managers and policy makers should account for the effect of local variation in physical geography when designing sustainable development projects.