Human Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 339–353 | Cite as

Household Agrobiodiversity Management on Amazonian Dark Earths, Oxisols, and Floodplain Soils on the Lower Madeira River, Brazil

  • Nicholas C. KawaEmail author
  • José A. Clavijo Michelangeli
  • Charles R. Clement


Smallholder farmers play a critical role in the maintenance of global agrobiodiversity. However, the social and environmental factors that shape agrobiodiversity and its management in rural smallholder communities are still debated among scholars. This study examines variation in the diversity of useful plant species (i.e., species richness) managed by households located in three distinct environments along the Lower Madeira River in the Central Brazilian Amazon: Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE), upland Oxisols (OX), and floodplain soils (FP). Among the 106 households studied, those located on ADE managed a significantly higher number of useful species than those on floodplain soils but not than those on Oxisols. A generalized linear mixed effects model indicates that the age of the household head, number of household members and adults, and area of land under cultivation are statistically significant factors that influence species richness across all households. Ethnographic data are employed to contextualize these findings and discuss other influences on agrobiodiversity management in rural Amazonian communities, including regional historical ecology and the life histories of individual farmers.


Agrobiodiversity Species richness Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE) Smallholder agriculture Amazonia Brazil 



Research was made possible with the support of a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award for the primary author. Institutional support in Brazil was provided by the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) where the primary author was a visiting scholar in the Botany Department between 2009 and 2010. The research protocol was approved by the University of Florida’s Institutional Review Board (protocol #2009-U- 0539). The authors wish to thank all the interviewees in Borba who spent time talking about the plants they manage. Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo, Mike Heckenberger, Chris McCarty, Marianne Schmink, and Nigel Smith provided useful comments on an early version of the manuscript. Two anonymous reviewers also offered helpful feedback and suggestions. Juliana Lins graciously provided many useful corrections and updates to species names in Table 1. Any errors remain those of the authors alone.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas C. Kawa
    • 1
    Email author
  • José A. Clavijo Michelangeli
    • 2
  • Charles R. Clement
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBall State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.Department of Crop ScienceNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleignUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agronomic SciencesInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da AmazôniaManausBrazil

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