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The Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin$
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Michael E. McClain, Reynaldo Victoria, and Jeffrey E. Richey

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195114317

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195114317.001.0001

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Extractive Reserves and Participatory Research as Factors in the Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin

Extractive Reserves and Participatory Research as Factors in the Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin

(p.122) 8 Extractive Reserves and Participatory Research as Factors in the Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin
The Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin

Foster I. Brown

Karen A. Kainer

Oxford University Press

The word Amazonia conjures up diverse images, ranging from an exotic jungle to resources for development to a vast web of ecosystems that interact with global element cycles-the focus of this book. This chapter examines the biogeochemical role of extractive reserves, a relatively new land use type within Amazonia in which nontimber forest extraction is the defining human activity. The chapter also provides examples of how participatory research with local communities can enhance the quality of the results and improve their transmission to society. Humans have been a part of the Amazon for the past several thousand years. Amerindian activities have affected forest structure in significant manners by selective planting and clearing (Balée 1989) and by increasing fire frequency, particularly during mega-El Niño events (Meggers 1994). During the last few centuries, neo-Europeans have tragically reduced native indigenous populations by several million and made wide-scale transformations in the tropics of the Americas (Crosby 1993, Ribeiro 1996). The booms in rubber extraction in the late 1800s and during World War II brought waves of nonindigenous migrants to Brazilian Amazonia (Dean 1989). More recently, large-scale implantation of cattle ranching and colonization projects, and to a lesser degree, mining activity, have accelerated change in Amazonian landscapes (Schmink and Wood 1992). In addition, the ensuing road network and infrastructure left in the wake of these recent activities increased access to primary forest, precipitating further deforestation. By 1996, about 52 million hectares, nearly the size of France, had been deforested in Brazilian Amazonia (INPE 1998). At the average rate of deforestation from 1992 to 1996 (1.9 million hectares per year), another area equivalent to this figure will be added by the year 2025, a time frame within the career of many reading this book. Continuation of the present trends will result in an increasing savannization of the Amazonian region, with pastures, secondary forests, and crop lands expanding into areas once occupied by closed-canopy forests. This phenomenon may also be called the “Africanization” of Amazonia because most of the pastures are planted with grasses imported from Africa, such as Bracharia brisanthum, which are notably different in their response to rainfall patterns and to fire than the forests that they replace.

Keywords:   amerindian activities, extractive reserves, participatory research, rubber extraction, savannization

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