The Amazon Várzea

pp 187-206


Várzea Forests: Multifunctionality as a Resource for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity

  • Miguel A. Pinedo-VasquezAffiliated withCenter for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University Email author 
  • , Robin R. SearsAffiliated withThe School for Field Studies

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In this paper we analyze and discuss the multifunctionality of várzea forests and their role in the conservation and sustainable use of várzea biodiversity. Based on data collected over the last 10 years in three várzea regions, we argue that the dynamic function of the várzea forest facilitates the application of spatially and temporally heterogeneous management systems, and the resulting use regime enhances rather than undermines ecosystems services and goods. Among a complex array of outcomes from managing várzea forests include a number of ecosystem services (i.e., seed dispersion as well as nesting grounds for fish, birds, and other várzea inhabitants) as well as products (i.e., timber, fruits, fish). Herein we present data on four major land use systems practiced by várzea residents that enhance the multifunctionality of forests for the production of ecosystems goods and services. These emerging forests are the result of four main transitional land use changes produced by the increase in the demand for forest fruit and fast-growing timber species in the local, regional, and international markets. These emerging smallholder-managed forests are diverse; they include everything from single species plantations to natural forests. Management regimes to restore vegetation in degraded pastures in the estuarine várzea have increased the population and diversity of fish species, particularly of the species classified by local people as peixes do mato (forest fish). Similarly, the conservation of riparian vegetation around oxbow lakes in Mamirauá is greatly increasing the nesting and resting grounds of caimans and turtles, as well as resident and migratory birds. A growing local and regional market for fast-growing timber species is increasing the commercial volume as well as facilitating the restoration of overexploited hardwood species in fallows and surrounding levee forests in the three várzea sites. Management practices that aim to maintain the multifunctionality of várzea forests are leading to variation in land cover and varying levels, types, and structures of várzea biodiversity. Our data on multifunctionality of várzea forests presents a considerable conceptual and practical alternative to conservation and sustainable use of várzea resources.


Ecosystem function Resource management Multifunctionality várzea Smallholders