Human Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 235–256 | Cite as

Yanomami Mobility and Its Effects on the Forest Landscape

  • Maurice Seiji Tomioka Nilsson
  • Philip Martin Fearnside


The Yanomami are a hunter-gatherer and gardener people with high mobility, which influences the regeneration of forest in agricultural clearings. Increasing contact with the wider Brazilian and Venezuelan societies may lead to sedentarization. Population groups and clearings were mapped in the Yanomami Land in Brazil using four mosaics of Landsat images from within a two-year period. The mosaics were separated by intervals of 7 years. Few groups were sedentary, and most of these maintained alternative residences. The Yanomami cleared 16,856 ha (0.17% of the Yanomami territory in Brazil) over the 21 years covered by this study. Individuals in mobile groups deforested more than those in sedentary groups, but secondary-forest regeneration occurs mainly in clearings made by mobile groups. Permanent settlements had impeded regeneration of 48% (2,025 ha) of the area cleared prior to 1988. Access to health care has led to population growth but has not increased sedentarization.


Amazon rainforest Forest regeneration Human ecology Landscape Yanomami Brazil Tropical forest Indigenous peoples Migration Swidden Shifting cultivation Hunting 



The National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) provided fellowships to both authors. The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) provided Landsat imagery and the System for the Protection of Amazonia (SIPAM) provided SAR radar imagery. Logistical support was provided by the National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA), the National Foundation for Health (FUNASA), the Service for Cooperation with the Yanomami People (Secoya), the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), and by many Yanomami, especially Davi Kopenawa. Valuable comments were provided by François Le Tourneau, William Milliken, Janet Chernela, Charles Clement, Rita Mesquita, Henrique Pereira, Reinaldo Imbrozio Barbosa, Paulo Mauricio Lima de Alencastro Graça, Flavia Capelloto Costa, Bruce Nelson, Eduardo Venticinque, William Magnusson, Albertina Lima and Euler Nogueira. We thank Sueli Costa, Julia Salem, Desirée Paço and Jucilene Silva for their help in obtaining a research license from the National Council for Ethics in Research (CONEP).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maurice Seiji Tomioka Nilsson
    • 1
  • Philip Martin Fearnside
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia—INPA, Coordenação de Pesquisas em EcologiaManausBrazil

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