2005-2007 Kleinhans Fellow: Amy Duchelle

Study of the Production of Brazil Nuts in the Face of Major Landscape Changes in the Western Amazon

Project Summary

Understanding complex linkages between social and ecological systems and their resilience to external shocks is essential to promote the sustainable management of natural resources. This project, directed by a graduate student researcher at the University of Florida, explored the resilience of Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) production to landscape-level change in the “MAP” region, comprised of the states of Madre de Dios, Peru; Acre, Brazil; and Pando, Bolivia. The development of the Inter-oceanic highway, an extension of the recently paved Brazilian BR-317 highway into Bolivia and Peru, will change the nature of this formerly remote region in the western Amazon by providing regional access to Pacific ports. In this dynamic context, Brazil nut productivity is a key indicator of the environmental and socioeconomic changes caused by road development. The primary differences between the three primary protected areas in the MAP region are: degree of road development and deforestation; access to and control of resources; and forest policies/markets affecting Brazil nut production. Under what conditions is Brazil nut production resilient to landscape-level change? This project hypothesized that Brazil nut production is most resilient when:

  1. local collectors actively manage Brazil nut stands through mapping, vine-cutting, clearing around seedlings, enrichment planting and drying harvested Brazil nuts to secure property rights, enhance yield, promote regeneration, and create a high-quality product;
  2. property rights are secure for Brazil nut collectors;
  3. Brazil nut provides adequate income for communities to discourage investment in alternative land uses;
  4. deforestation and fire are minimal in Brazil nut stands; and
  5. seedling recruitment assures long-term population viability.

Combinations of variables 1-4 were measured in 25 Brazil nut producing communities in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru using socioeconomic, spatial and ecological research methods.

Project Objectives

  • Measure Brazil nut collection and management in forest communities in the tri-national frontier region of Madre de Dios, Peru; Acre, Brazil; and Pando, Bolivia (MAP).
  • Assess the relationships between forest policies (including property rights), rural livelihoods, and Brazil nut management in the region.
  • Create 20-year land use cover change trajectories for Brazil nut-producing communities located within and outside of protected areas, and along rivers or roads using remote sensing and GIS.
  • Conduct a value-chain analysis of Brazil nut production.
  • Reforest abandoned pastures with Brazil nut seedlings in a participatory experiment with Brazilian farmers.
  • Disseminate results to relevant stakeholders
Forest canopy - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

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