The goal of this work was to understand the main hydrodynamic processes acting on tidal flats of the coast of Amapá near the mouth of the Amazon River, and how they change over the short term (~ 20 years). The analysis of morphological and geobotanical units was carried out by applying processing and interpretation methods to optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images, combined with data on water salinity, maximum flood height, sedimentary facies data, rainfall and river discharge. The temporal analysis of morphological and geobotanical units suggests the relative stabilization of savannah, ‘várzea’ and mangrove areas during the drier period and increasing tidal amplitude between 1987 to 1997. The wetter period and decreasing tidal amplitude between 1997 to 2008 led to an increase in the area of ‘várzea’ and lakes over savannah, and the expansion of mangroves mainly over the inundated field and tidal mud/mixed flats. Therefore, the decrease in rainfall index during the drier period is well-correlated with the reduction of the Calçoene River discharge and jointly with increasing tidal amplitude favored the increase of migration rate of the mud bank and erosion profile along the littoral. It was followed by the increase of the Calçoene River discharge and jointly with decreasing tidal amplitude during the wetter period, favoring the development of mangroves on muddy substrates near the coastline. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.