Human Ecology

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 1–26 | Cite as

Farming, fishing, and fire in the history of the upper Río Negro region of Venezuela

  • Kathleen Clark
  • Christopher Uhl


Studies of Río Negro subsistence farming and fishing activities are used to estimate the human carrying capacity for the region and the likely pattern of human land-use during prehistory. Ceramic evidence suggests human presence in the region more than 3000 years ago. Traditional farming is labor intensive and relatively unproductive. Nevertheless, farmers achieve an energy return of 15.2∶1, and produce 2600 kcal per work hour. Fish are the major protein source, but fish catch per unit of effort and fish yield per hectare of floodplain are very low; fishermen are probably exploiting local fish resources very close to their limit. The low human population density would suggest that the Río Negro forest has been relatively undisturbed. Nevertheless, charcoal is widespread and abundant in forest soils. This charcoal is probably from anthropogenic or natural wildfires. These results suggest a much more complex history for Amazonia than previously thought.

Key words

Amazon fire fishing agriculture energetics 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Clark
    • 1
  • Christopher Uhl
    • 2
  1. 1.c/o Agency for International DevelopmentLimaPeru
  2. 2.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkPennsylvania

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