Amazonian Floodplain Forests pp 485-509

Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 210)

| Cite as

The Role of Floodplain Forests in an Integrated Sustainable Management Concept of the Natural Resources of the Central Amazonian Várzea

  • Wolfgang J. Junk
  • Maria T. F. Piedade
  • Florian Wittmann
  • Jochen Schöngart
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter provides an overview of the use of Amazonian floodplains and makes proposals for their sustainable management. Archaeological artifacts show that humans colonized the lower Amazon River floodplain (várzea) about 12,000 years BP. The first Europeans that traveled along the Amazon River described densely populated stretches of river shores. Soon after the arrival of the Europeans, introduced diseases, wars, and slave raids dramatically reduced the numbers of indigenous people and disintegrated their communities. Export-oriented exploitation led to the quick destruction of the large stocks of turtles, manatees, caimans and other wildlife. Today, important uses of the floodplains for fisheries, subsistence agriculture, forestry, and cattle and buffalo ranching are concentrated in the nutrient rich whitewater river floodplains. With an estimated potential of about 900,000 t yr-1, inland fisheries have a large economic potential that is not yet fully exploited. Agriculture is of increasing importance near urban centers. Forestry is still restricted to selective extraction of a few timber species, depleting their stocks. Low density cattle and buffalo ranching are expanding, at a cost to forestry, because ranchers destroy the forest to increase their pasture areas. This also negatively affects fisheries and biodiversity, because forests provide food sources for many commercially important fishes and habitat for many plant and animal species. Within the floodplain, all management methods are influenced by the annual hydrological cycle and people cope well with it; however, extreme floods and droughts result in serious economic losses and threaten human life. Scientists have proposed several strategies for improving the management of floodplain resources, such as the multiple-use concept, the concept of participatory management of fishery resources, and the concept of growth-oriented logging of várzea forests. A new model for the prediction of peak floods and droughts, based on sea-surface temperatures of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, help people to take preventive actions. However, in practice there are still serious deficiencies in the application of scientific knowledge because of lack of cooperation between scientists, politicians, and planners. There are a few implemented projects, such as the reserves for sustainable management, but until now experiments in modern, integrated, floodplain adaptive management are still in their beginnings.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang J. Junk
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria T. F. Piedade
    • 3
  • Florian Wittmann
    • 4
  • Jochen Schöngart
    • 5
  1. 1.State University of Amazonas (UEA), National Institute of Amazon Research (INPA)ManausBrazil
  2. 2.Working Group of Tropical EcologyMax-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary BiologyPlönGermany
  3. 3.Wetlands Ecology and Adaptations of Plants to FloodingNational Institute of Amazon Research (INPA)ManausBrazil
  4. 4.Biogeochemistry DepartmentMax Planck Institute for ChemistryMainzGermany
  5. 5.Biogeochemistry DepartmentMax Planck Institute for ChemistryMainzGermany

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