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The Amazon River Forest: A Natural History of Plants, Animals and People

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The floodplain forest of the worlds mightiest river, the Amazon, is one of the last major agricultural frontiers. Inhabitants of this bountiful environment have long harvested its wealth of plant and animal resources for a wide array of products, especially fruits, nuts, building materials, fuelwood, and medicinal plants. While the Amazon floodplain has great potential for food production, this unique habitat, inundated every year to a depth of up to 30 feet, is increasingly threatened by ranching and agricultural expansion, and its natural resource base is being impaired by inappropriate land-use practices.

In this book, geographer Nigel Smith reviews the natural history of the area from the people's perspective, offering a large-scale portrayal of the culture of the region not found in most books on Amazonia. The book investigates how the ways in which people make a living are entwined with religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as with nature. Smith challenges the notion that the Amazon basin is a demographic void and a cultural backwater, arguing that the region, densely settled in the past, could again become a prosperous agricultural area. He points out that the local inhabitants' knowledge of the basins natural history is a vital—and sorely overlooked—resource for sound economic development. Topics explored include ecological, cultural, and socioeconomic issues surrounding animal husbandry, domestication of game, annual cropping, agroforestry, and the gathering of forest products. Examining the historical dimensions of various land uses, Smith suggests practical ways to develop the floodplain that enhance, rather than destroy, biodiversity.

A pathbreaking study, impeccably researched and beautifully illustrated, this book will interest a broad audience of individuals and organizations concerned with the development and conservation of rainforests and wetlands.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195126839
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 24
  • Sales rank: 469,242
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Nigel Smith is Professor of Geography at the University of Florida. He has conducted field work in Amazonia for over a quarter of a century, and traveled widely in other parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The author of a dozen books, Smith consults with various organizations, including the World Bank, on sound practices for conservation and development.

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Table of Contents

1 Biodiversity as a Cornerstone for Agricultural Intensification 3
2 The Ebb and Flow of Cultures 15
3 A Forest Cornucopia 47
4 The Emergence and Impact of Livestock Raising 83
5 Islands in the Sun 111
6 A Harvest for All Seasons 139
7 Restoring a Threatened Paradise 155
App. A Common and Scientific Names of Plants 167
App. B Common and Scientific Names of Animals 171
App. C Seventy-nine Varieties of Bitter Manioc Cultivated in the Brazilian Amazon 173
App. D Twenty-two Varieties of Sweet Manioc Cultivated in the Brazilian Amazon 177
App. E Ninety-three Plant Species Growing in Twenty-two Home Gardens on the Amazon Floodplain 179
Notes 181
Further Reading 185
Index 201
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