The influence of seasonal river flooding in food consumption of riverine dwellers in the central Amazon region: an isotopic approach

Abstract

In recent decades, the nutritional transition has been encroaching on remote rural areas of developing countries where feeding patterns are shifting from unprocessed foods to industrialized processed goods. Such changes in the Amazon region have been detected, for instance, by comparing the natural carbon (13C:12C) and nitrogen (15N:14N) isotopic ratios of people living in riverine communities with urban dwellers their putative diet. In this study, we considered how landscape variables impacted food consumption by comparing fingernail isotopic ratios of individuals in the rural settlement of Costa do Caldeirão located in the floodplain (várzea) of the Solimões River, and in the rural settlement of Paquequer located in a non-flooded area (terra-firme) near the Madeira River banks. A total of 70 fingernails were sampled for carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis during the low water period and again during the high water period from the same residents of the várzea and terra-firme. The consumption of C4-like resources (e.g., frozen chicken and canned meat) increased in both rural settlements during the high water period when C3-like resources (fish, cassava, rice, beans) are less available due to the flooding of lowland areas, but this difference was more pronounced in the terra-firme. The higher consumption of C4-like resources in the várzea compared to the terra-firme shows how seasonal flooding is a key factor influencing food security and health, due to stark variations in river water levels. While fish and farinha are still important staple foods, differences within rural settlements suggest that, besides seasonal variation and changes in water levels, other factors such as age, origin, and income may be crucial to understanding individual dietary behavior change in line with the nutritional transition model.

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Data availability

The isotope raw data is available through the following link: https://doi.org/10.17632/b3mbcgf69z.1.

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Acknowledgments

We thank every individual who participated in this research. We acknowledge the technical support from Dr. P.B. de Camargo and Dr. M.Z. Moreira (CENA/USP) and thank Jim Hesson from Academic English Solutions for revision of the English.

Funding

This study was funded by the Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo–Fapesp (2011/50345-9).

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Correspondence to Gabriela Bielefeld Nardoto.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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This study was approved by the human ethical committee of the Universidade Federal do Amazonas – UFAM number 1.582.636 on June 9th 2016. The fingernail sampling was approved by the Ethics Committee of ESALQ–COET 053, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil.

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Jardim, C.M., Nardoto, G.B., de Lima, A.C.B. et al. The influence of seasonal river flooding in food consumption of riverine dwellers in the central Amazon region: an isotopic approach. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 12, 205 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01172-5

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Keywords

  • Amazon
  • Brazil
  • Diet
  • Culture
  • Globalization
  • Capitalism
  • Stable isotope analysis