Economic Botany

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 169–177 | Cite as

Useful Species Richness, Proportion of Exotic Species, and Market Orientation on Amazonian Dark Earths and Oxisols1

  • Nicholas C. KawaEmail author
  • Daniel Rodrigues
  • Charles R. Clement


Useful Species Richness, Proportion of Exotic Species, and Market Orientation on Amazonian Dark Earths and Oxisols Anthropogenic soils of Amazonia, known as Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE), are environments with elevated soil fertility that can produce crops that otherwise yield poorly on the leached and highly acidic Oxisols that dominate much of the basin. While ADE sites near urban centers often attract commercial horticultural production of nutrient–demanding exotics, these soils are also considered possibly unique reservoirs of endemic agrobiodiversity because of their relationship to pre–Columbian indigenous occupation. Through botanical surveys and interviews with smallholder farmers, this study compared useful species richness, proportion of exotic species, and market orientation of farms situated on ADE and non–anthropogenic Oxisols in the municipality of Borba in Central Brazilian Amazonia. Species richness was similar on Amazonian Dark Earth and Oxisol farms (19.6 spp vs. 18.3 spp); however, ADE farms showed significantly higher proportions of exotic species (39% vs. 26%; p = 0.025). Furthermore, ADE farms in Borba demonstrated significantly higher market orientation (61.0% vs. 47.3%; p = 0.028), likely a result of the advantage of Amazonian Dark Earths for production of crops that are nutrient–demanding or pH–sensitive crops that have higher values in the nearby regional market of Manaus.

Key Words

Amazonian Dark Earth terra preta do índio agrobiodiversity smallholder agriculture Madeira River Brazilian Amazonia 

Riqueza de espécies úteis, proporção de espécies exóticas e orientação para o mercado em sítios sobre Terra Preta de Índio e Latossolos em Borba, Amazonas, Brasil Solos antrópicos da Amazônia, conhecidos como terra preta de índio (ADE), são ambientes de alta fertilidade capazes de sustentar a produção de cultivos que não se desenvolvem bem nos latossolos ácidos e pobres da bacia Amazônica. Sítios em ADE próximos a centros urbanos são frequentemente utilizados para a produção comercial de cultivos exóticos, embora esses solos sejam também considerados reservatórios de agrobiodiversidade endêmica devido à sua relação com a ocupação indígena na época Pré–colombiana. Utilizando dados de inventários florísticos e de entrevistas com pequenos agricultores, esse estudo comparou a riqueza de espécies úteis, a proporção de espécies exóticas e a orientação para o mercado em sítios sobre ADE e sobre latossolos no município de Borba, Amazonas, Brasil. A riqueza de espécies é similar em ADE e em latossolos (19,6 spp. vs. 18,3 spp.), entretanto os agricultores manejam em ADE uma maior proporção de espécies exóticas (39% vs. 26%; p = 0,025). Além disso, os sítios em ADE têm maior orientação para o mercado (61% vs. 47,3%), o que está provavelmente relacionado à vantagem que ADE oferece para a produção de cultivos exigentes em nutrientes ou sensíveis à acidez do solo, que são mais valorizados no mercado regional de Manaus.



First and foremost, we thank all the farmers who devoted their time to explaining their work, their farms, and their soils. The Instituto de Desenvolvimento do Amazonas (IDAM) extension agents in Borba also deserve special thanks for introducing us to communities and allowing us to accompany their work. Nicholas C. Kawa received financial support for this research through a Charles Wagley Research Fellowship from the University of Florida’s Latin American Studies Program. The Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) approved the Scientific Expedition (Process # EXC007–07–C) to work in Brazil and the Comitê de Ética em Pesquisa com Seres Humanos at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (CEP–INPA) approved the ethical standards used in our work with farmers in Borba (Process # 147/07). Augusto Oyuela–Caycedo, Marianne Schmink, Nigel Smith and James A. Fraser provided helpful suggestions on earlier drafts of this manuscript. We also thank André Junqueira, two anonymous reviewers, and Robert Voeks for their constructive criticism that contributed to improving this article. Charles R. Clement is a fellow (bolsa de produtividade) of CNPq.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas C. Kawa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Daniel Rodrigues
    • 3
  • Charles R. Clement
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA), Programa de Pós–graduação em BotânicaManausBrazil
  3. 3.Universidade Nilton LinsManausBrazil
  4. 4.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA), Coordenação de Pesquisas em Ciências AgronômicasManausBrazil

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