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1492 and the loss of amazonian crop genetic resources. I. The relation between domestication and human population decline

1492 e a Perda dos Recursos Genéticos da Amazônia. I. A Relação entre Domesticação e o Declínio das Populações Humanas

Abstract

There may have been 4–5 million people in Amazonia at the time of European contact. These people cultivated or managed at least 138 plant species in 1492. Many of these crop genetic resources were human artifacts that required human intervention for their maintenance, i.e., they were in an advanced state of domestication. Consequently, there was a relationship between the decline of Amazonian Amerindian populations and the loss of their crop genetic heritage after contact. This relationship was influenced by the crop’s degree of domestication, its life history, the degree of landscape domestication where it was grown, the number of human societies that used it, and its importance to these societies. Amazonian crop genetic erosion probably reflects an order of magnitude loss and the losses continue today.

Résumé

A Amazônia poderia ter tido de 4 a 5 milhÕes de habitantes quando os Europeus chegaram. Estes povos cultivaram ou manejaram pelo menos 138 espécies vegetais em 1492. Muitos destes recursos genéticos eram artefatos humanos que requeriam a intervenção humana para sua manutenção, ou seja, estavam num estado avançado de domesticação. Conseqiientemente, existiu uma relaçao entre o declínio das populaçÕes indigenas da Amazônia e a perda de seus recursos genéticos apòs o contato. Esta relaç00E3o foi influenciada pelo grau de domesticação do cultivo, sua história de vida, o grau de domesticação da paisagem em que foi cultivada, o número de sociedades indigenas que o utilizou, e sua importância a estas sociedades. A erosão dos recursos genéticos indigenas da Amazônia provavelmente reflete uma perda de um ordern de magnitude e as perdas continuam hoje.

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Dedicated to the memory of Paulo Sodero Martins, 1941–1997, fellow student, researcher and professor of South American crop domestication, origins and biogeography.

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Clement, C.R. 1492 and the loss of amazonian crop genetic resources. I. The relation between domestication and human population decline. Econ Bot 53, 188 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02866498

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Key Words

  • Amazonia
  • Landscape domestication
  • Crop domestication
  • Pre-Columbian demography
  • European contact
  • Genetic erosion