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A profile of palm heart extraction in the Amazon estuary

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Many of the processed palm hearts consumed throughout the world are derived from the açaípalm (Euterpe oleraceaMart.)), which grows abundantly in floodplain forests of the Amazon estuary. Palm heart extraction began in the estuary in the 1970s and there are now hundreds of canning factories and some 50 distribution firms in this region. Annual profits of the canning factories range from $30,000 to $50,000 while profits for distribution firms frequently exceed $500,000/year. But there are several indications that this economic boon will be short-lived: factory closings are frequent, palm hearts are much smaller now than in the past, and mortality of palm trees is high in stands subjected to frequent palm heart harvest. However, the açaípalm is well suited for management because of its abundance, rapid growth, and multistemmed life form. Under management, palm hearts can be harvested from the same clump over many years through controlled thinning. The management of açaístands could result in significant long-term savings for palm heart factories. Indeed, açaímanagement may offer one of the best opportunities to date for sustained use of some Amazonian forests.

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Pollak, H., Mattos, M. & Uhl, C. A profile of palm heart extraction in the Amazon estuary. Hum Ecol 23, 357–385 (1995).

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