The Amazon River Forest: A Natural History of Plants, Animals, and People

Paperback | January 1, 1999

byNigel J. H. Smith

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The floodplain forest of the worlds mightiest river, the Amazon, is one of the last major agricultural frontiers. Inhabitants of this bountiful environment have long harvested its wealth of plant and animal resources for a wide array of products, especially fruits, nuts, building materials,fuelwood, and medicinal plants. While the Amazon floodplain has great potential for food production, this unique habitat, inundated every year to a depth of up to 30 feet, is increasingly threatened by ranching and agricultural expansion, and its natural resource base is being impaired byinappropriate land-use practices. In this book, geographer Nigel Smith reviews the natural history of the area from the people's perspective, offering a large-scale portrayal of the culture of the region not found in most books on Amazonia. The book investigates how the ways in which people make a living are entwined with religiousand spiritual beliefs, as well as with nature. Smith challenges the notion that the Amazon basin is a demographic void and a cultural backwater, arguing that the region, densely settled in the past, could again become a prosperous agricultural area. He points out that the local inhabitants'knowledge of the basins natural history is a vital--and sorely overlooked--resource for sound economic development. Topics explored include ecological, cultural, and socioeconomic issues surrounding animal husbandry, domestication of game, annual cropping, agroforestry, and the gathering of forestproducts. Examining the historical dimensions of various land uses, Smith suggests practical ways to develop the floodplain that enhance, rather than destroy, biodiversity. A pathbreaking study, impeccably researched and beautifully illustrated, this book will interest a broad audience of individuals and organizations concerned with the development and conservation of rainforests and wetlands.

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The floodplain forest of the worlds mightiest river, the Amazon, is one of the last major agricultural frontiers. Inhabitants of this bountiful environment have long harvested its wealth of plant and animal resources for a wide array of products, especially fruits, nuts, building materials,fuelwood, and medicinal plants. While the Amaz...

Nigel Smith is Professor of Geography at the University of Florida. He has conducted field work in Amazonia for over a quarter of a century, and traveled widely in other parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The author of a dozen books, Smith consults with various organizations, including the World Bank, on sound practices for con...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.75 × 6.35 × 0.68 inPublished:January 1, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195126831

ISBN - 13:9780195126839

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Table of Contents

PrefaceCh. 1. Biodiversity as a Cornerstone for Agricultural IntensificationCh. 2. The Ebb and Flow of CulturesCh. 3. A Forest CornucopiaCh. 4. The Emergence and Impact of Livestock RaisingCh. 5. Islands in the SunCh. 6. A Harvest for All SeasonsCh. 7. Restoring a Threatened ParadiseReferencesApp. 1. Common and Scientific Names of PlantsApp. 2. Common and Scientific Names of AnimalsApp. 3. Seventy-nine Bitter Manoic Varieties Cultivated in the Brazilian AmazonApp. 4. Twenty-two Sweet Manoic Varieties Cultivated in the Brazilian AmazonApp. 5. Ninety-three plant varieties growing in 22 home gardens on the Amazon floodplain

Editorial Reviews

"The Amazon River Forest is based on astute and meticulous observation, a good sense of local constraints and possibilities, and the author's extensive local and comparative experience. It is the best human ecology of the Amazon floodplain for researchers and advanced courses...A series ofappendices regarding plants and animals of local use and some selective lists of further readings ordered by theme enhance the book's utility. Nonspecialist readers will be attracted by Smith's nontechnical, elegant, and occasionally lyrical prose, which combines with well-chosen photographs toeffectively convey a feel of local conditions."--Annals of the Association of American Geographers