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Sustainability indicators of the Brazil nut tree management


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Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa Bonpl) management, is a traditional activity that plays a key role in the economy of forestbased Amazon communities and in the conservation of forests. Nevertheless, some threats and critical points related to sustainability indicate to the need for establishment of monitoring procedures that can assist in the management of this natural resource. The overall aim of the research was to evaluate the MESMIS method as a tool to support the participatory definition of sustainability indicators to monitor Brazil nut management, and the viability of Brazil nut harvest over time. For that, we carried out a case study in the Porvir Community, RESEX Chico Mendes, Acre State (Brazil), aiming to integrate the perceptions of Brazil nut harvesters, researchers, managers, and technicians to define the indicators. The result was the generation of 18 strategic indicators to assess sustainability in the environmental, technical-economic and social dimensions. Assessment parameters, representing conditions that must be achieved for system sustainability, were collectively defined for each indicator. The main critical values attributed in the evaluation of the indicators are related to Brazil nut commercialization to intermediaries and oscillation in the annual fruit production. The use of the MESMIS method was considered appropriate to the studied context and can be recommended to similar non-timber forest product management systems.
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RBCIAMB | v.56 | n.4 | Dec 2021 | 551-563 - ISSN 2176-9478
Brazil nut tree (Berthollea excelsa Bonpl) management, is a
tradional acvity that plays a key role in the economy of forest-
based Amazon communies and in the conservaon of forests.
Nevertheless, some threats and crical points related to sustainability
indicate to the need for establishment of monitoring procedures that
can assist in the management of this natural resource. The overall
aim of the research was to evaluate the MESMIS method as a tool
to support the parcipatory denion of sustainability indicators
to monitor Brazil nut management, and the viability of Brazil nut
harvest over me. For that, we carried out a case study in the
Porvir Community, RESEX Chico Mendes, Acre State (Brazil), aiming
to integrate the percepons of Brazil nut harvesters, researchers,
managers, and technicians to dene the indicators. The result was
the generaon of 18 strategic indicators to assess sustainability in
the environmental, technical-economic and social dimensions.
Assessment parameters, represenng condions that must be
achieved for system sustainability, were collecvely dened for
each indicator. The main crical values aributed in the evaluaon
of the indicators are related to Brazil nut commercializaon to
intermediaries and oscillaon in the annual fruit producon. The use
of the MESMIS method was considered appropriate to the studied
context and can be recommended to similar non-mber forest
product management systems.
Keywords: extracvism; sustainability indicators; community
management; mesmis method.
O manejo da castanheira-da-amazônia (Berthollea excelsa Bonpl.) é
uma avidade tradicional, chave para a economia de milhares de famílias
extravistas da Amazônia e para a conservação das orestas. Algumas
ameaças e pontos crícos relacionados à sustentabilidade da avidade
apontam para a necessidade de se estabelecerem procedimentos de
monitoramento que possam auxiliar na gestão desse recurso natural.
O objevo deste trabalho foi avaliar o método Marco para a Avaliação
de sistemas de Manejo de Recursos Naturais Incorporando Indicadores
de Sustentabilidade (MESMIS) como ferramenta de apoio à denição
parcipava de indicadores para a avaliação da sustentabilidade do
manejo de castanhais navos e da viabilidade do extravismo da
castanha ao longo do tempo. Para tanto, realizou-se um estudo de caso
na Comunidade Porvir, Reserva Extravista Chico Mendes, Acre, onde se
buscou integrar as percepções de extravistas, pesquisadores, gestores
e técnicos sobre o assunto. O resultado foi a geração de 18 indicadores
estratégicos para a avaliação da sustentabilidade nas dimensões
ambiental, técnico-econômica e social, denindo-se colevamente
parâmetros de avaliação para cada indicador. Os principais valores crícos
atribuídos na avaliação do estudo de caso foram relacionados à questão
da comercialização da castanha para atravessadores e à oscilação na
produção anual de frutos. O emprego do método MESMIS foi considerado
adequado ao contexto estudado, de modo que pode ser recomendado e
adaptado ao manejo de outros produtos orestais não madeireiros.
Palavras-chave: extravismo; indicadores de sustentabilidade; método
mesmis; manejo comunitário.
Sustainability indicators of the Brazil nut tree management
Indicadores de sustentabilidade do manejo da castanha-da-amazônia
Fernanda Lopes da Fonseca1 , Oscar José Rover2 , Lucia Helena de Oliveira Wadt3 , Cleisa Brasil da Cunha Cartaxo1
1Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária – Rio Branco (AC), Brazil.
2Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina – Florianópolis (SC), Brazil.
3Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária – Porto Velho (RO), Brazil.
Correspondence address: Fernanda Lopeas da Fonseca – Rodovia BR-364 – Km 14 (Rio Branco/Porto Velho) – Caixa Postal: 321 – CEP: 69900-970 –
Rio Branco (AC), Brazil. E-mail:
Conicts of interest: the authors declare no conict of interest.
Funding: Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa).
Received on: 08/20/2020. Accepted on: 06/16/2021
Revista Brasileira de Ciências Ambientais
Brazilian Journal of Environmental Sciences
Revista Brasileira de Ciências Ambientais
Brazilian Journal of Environmental Sciences
ISSN 2176-9478
Volume 56, Number 1, March 2021
This is an open access arcle distributed under the terms of the Creave Commons license.
Fonseca, F.L. et al.
RBCIAMB | v.56 | n.4 | Dec 2021 | 551-563 - ISSN 2176-9478
e Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest tropical forest, with
about 52% of its territory protected as conservation units or indigenous
lands. ese areas act as a buer for external pressures of deforestation
and expansion of the agricultural frontier, contributing signicantly to
ensuring biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions, and mitigating cli-
mate change. e Brazilian Amazon alone xes roughly 30% of all car-
bon stored in protected natural areas and indigenous lands throughout
the biome (Walker etal., 2020).
e production of Brazil nuts is directly related to the conservation
of the Amazon Forest. e species Bertholletia excelsa is an imposing
tree in tropical forests and produces Brazil nuts, which is collected al-
most exclusively in native forests. Currently, Brazil nuts is considered
one of the most important non-timber forest products in the world
(Gardner and Costi, 2014).
Most Brazil nuts are produced in conservation units, primarily by
traditional peoples and communities, including extractivists, indige-
nous people, and quilombolas, combining income generation and bio-
diversity conservation (Picanço and Costa, 2019; Silva etal., 2020).
Over the past three decades, Brazil nuts have emerged as a key
product in the Amazonian extractive economy, promoting food se-
curity and ensuring the livelihoods of traditional populations (Kainer
etal., 2018).
In the state of Acre, Brazil, despite the well-structured produc-
tion chain and the valorization of Brazil nuts in the market, the sus-
tainable management of the activity faces threats and critical points,
which require studies for a better understanding. Some of these
challenges concern the socio-environmental crisis, climate change,
constant threats of deforestation, and forest res, as well as the con-
version of forest areas into pastures in the Amazon. Other concerns
refer to oscillations in fruit production of Brazil nut trees in criti-
cal years, price uctuations, and market speculations, deciency of
public policies for the sector, as well as the fragility of the social and
governance dynamics that involve these management systems (Brose,
2016; Cartaxo etal., 2016; Wadt etal., 2016; EMBRAPA, 2017; Mas-
carenhas etal., 2018).
ese socioeconomic and productive challenges for Brazil nut
harvests by traditional populations require community management
strategies to assess and monitor the sustainability of these produc-
tion systems. ese strategies allow understanding interrelation-
ships, predicting risks, and proposing improvements for the resil-
ience of the system.
is work evaluated the Marco para la Evaluación de Sistemas de
Manejo de los Recursos Naturales Incorporando Indicadores de Suste-
ntabilidad method (MESMIS) as a support tool for the participatory
denition of indicators to assess and monitor sustainability in Brazil
nut stands management, based on a case study carried out at RESEX
Chico Mendes in the state of Acre.
General aspects of sustainability
indicators in natural resource management
Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and De-
velopment “Rio 92” and the elaboration of Agenda 21, the need to
develop indicators capable of assessing sustainability has been dis-
cussed in the political and academic spheres. According to Caporal
etal. (2010), based on the institutionalization and popularization of
the sustainable development discourse, the search for methodolo-
gies that allow measuring sustainability and, consequently, indicat-
ing ways to minimize social problems intensies on the scientic,
ecological, and economic agenda promoted by anthropic action in
agroecosystems and by unequal sociopolitical relations regarding the
appropriation of nature.
In general, “sustainability indicators intend to inform concisely
about a certain state or a certain condition of a system of interest (an
agroecosystem, for example). Sustainability indicators are taken, there-
fore, as decision-making instruments to improve the use of the envi-
ronment” (Schlindwein, 2010, p. 88).
Gallopín (1996) states that the most important characteristic of an
indicator is its relevance to policies and the decision-making process,
and social actors involved in the process have considered the indica-
tor’s relevance to be representative.
Sustainability indicators are dened as the synthesis and inter-
pretation of a set of information that indicate trends in behavior and
help in the development of strategies to improve the human-nature
relationship. ese indicators allow quantifying, analyzing, and trans-
mitting information in a simple way, as well as informing about the
achievement of sustainability in dierent dimensions. erefore, it is
possible to monitor progress toward achieving the goals set, preventing
economic, environmental, and social losses (Hammond etal., 1995;
Bellen, 2006; Melane-Lavado and Álvarez-Herranz, 2018).
In this context, sustainability indicators can and should be wide-
ly used as a management tool in projects and processes linked to the
management of natural resources, as they allow diagnosing, monitor-
ing, evaluating, and planning methods, guiding new actions and in-
vestments for local development and for the creation of public policies
(Vivan and Floriani, 2001; Steenbock etal., 2013).
However, S chlindwein (2010) states that the adoption of sustainability
indicators in the management of natural resources only provides concrete
changes if the indicators are developed through processes that involve so-
cial learning and joined actions between the dierent social actors.
According to Marques etal. (2003), indicators should:
be applicable to many systems;
be sensitive to system changes;
be measurable and easy to measure;
be easy to obtain and low cost;
allow cross-checking with other indicators;
be conceived with the participation of local population, at least at a
property level of measurements.
Sustainability indicators of the Brazil nut tree management
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e use of the MESMIS method is highlighted in agroecology
and small-scale natural resource management, mainly because this
method has a exible operational structure, allowing a “bottom-up
approach (involving dierent social actors, especially farmers) in the
sustainability assessment process and proposing a cyclical assessment
process (Cândido etal., 2015; Loureiro etal., 2020). ese dieren-
tials allow using the method in dierent social and productive realities.
According to Loureiro etal. (2020), over a hundred scientic papers on
MESMIS have already been published, which document case studies
applied to dierent productive activities (mainly agriculture and live-
stock) in dierent parts of the world.
Material and Methods
The MESMIS method for evaluating
natural resource management systems
e MESMIS method was developed in Mexico during the 1990s
and has been extensively tested in dierent geographic areas, main-
ly in South America, North America, and Europe. MESMIS presents
apath to determine, read, and interpret sustainability indicators with
a systemic focus. It also provides practical and exible orientation for
adaptations in dierent contexts, based on a participatory and interdis-
ciplinary approach (Masera and López-Ridaura, 2000; López-Ridaura
etal., 2002; Astier and Hollands, 2007; Astier etal., 2012).
e MESMIS framework (Figure 1) was developed by critical-
ly integrating concepts on sustainable development, sustainability,
systemic approaches, natural resource management, sustainabil-
ity assessment, and sustainability indicators (Masera et al., 1999;
López-Ridaura etal., 2002).
Table 1 presents the denition of Masera etal. (1999) for the gen-
eral attributes, which were theoretically conceived from fundamental
systemic properties linked to dierent aspects for a management sys-
tem to be considered sustainable.
Case study at RESEX Chico Mendes
Study site
e study was carried out in the municipality of Epitaciolândia,
Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve (RESEX), Acre State, Brazil, in part-
nership with the community of Wilson Pinheiro Base Center (Com-
munity Porvir) (Figure 2). e nucleus aggregates 36 families and the
total area of the community comprises 11,500ha (Acre, 2012). eex-
ploratory stage of the research began in January 2019 and data was
collected between May and June 2019.
Figure 1 – e MESMIS method framework: linking sustainability attributes to indicators.
Source: translated from Masera etal. (1999).
Fonseca, F.L. et al.
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Data collection
e research had a descriptive and analytical methodological
character, with a quali-quantitative approach, prioritizing the par-
ticipation of extractivists (López-Ridaura etal., 2002; Gomes, 2010).
e premise for constructing the indicators was based on a “bot-
tom-up” approach. Aer obtaining the necessary authorizations to
conduct the research, the eld trips were carried out. is research
was approved by the Ethics Committee for Research with Human
Beings of Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (CEPSH-UFSC)
through process No. 3.344.855/2019, as well as by ICMBio through
the project submission on the platform of the System of Authorization
and Information on Biodiversity (SISBIO – authorization No. 68144-
1, issuing date 03/29/2019).
e sustainability criteria and indicators were dened by the eval-
uation cycle proposed by MESMIS (Figure 3), with adaptations to the
studied context inspired by other studies involving the generation and
use of indicators with agro-extractivists (Vivan and Floriani, 2001;
Steenbock etal., 2013).
e study was conducted according to the following steps:
Step 1) Characterization of the management system studied, with
its main socioeconomic aspects, based on a literature review and
document analysis;
Step 2) Participatory diagnostic workshop at the community aimed
at: understanding the harvesters’ perception on sustainability and
aspects that dene a “good” Brazil nut management system, from
production to marketing; critical points of the management sys-
tem, that is, aspects that limit or strengthen the production system
capacity to sustain itself over time;
Step 3) Systematization of an initial list of indicators from the follow-
ing sources: aspects that dene a good Brazil nut management system,
according to the knowledge of harvesters; matrix of critical points;
MESMIS framework (Figure 1); and information collected in step 1;
Stage 4) Semi-structured interviews with dierent social actors
interested in the management of native Brazil nut trees (research-
ers, RESEX manager, technicians, and harvesters), aimed at select-
ing strategic indicators from the initial list of indicators dened
in stage 3. During the interviews, parameters were also dened to
evaluate each indicator, according to the knowledge of the inter-
viewees, assigning scores from 1 (one) to 10 (ten), where 10 rep-
resents the ideal condition for system sustainability; 5 represents
an acceptable condition; and 1 represents an undesirable condi-
tion. e parameters constructed allowed evaluating indicators
through the scores. In the end, 18 strategic indicators were selected
to assess sustainability in the environmental, technical-economic,
and social dimensions;
Step 5) Assessment workshop in the community participating in
the study. In this step, four Brazil nut stands were selected to apply
the indicators, based on the scores dened in step 4;
Step 6) Systematization and integration of data obtained in the
eld, using radial type graphics, examining the relationships be-
tween indicators (synergies and trade-os).
e data collected and analyzed were used to describe conclusions
and recommendations upon completion of the rst evaluation cycle.
A volunteer group of 10harvesters participated in the workshops,
belonging to four dierent Brazil nut stands (productive units): Boa
Água, Morada Nova, São José, and Encontro.
Results and Discussion
Characterization of the management system studied
Residents of the Community Porvir traditionally harvest Brazil
nuts, rubber, açaí, bacaba, patoá, vegetable oils, as well as hunt, sh,
and plant crops for subsistence. Some crops grown are rice, beans, corn,
cassava (for our production), banana, and other fruits. ey also raise
animals such as dairy and beef cattle, chicken, duck, pigs, sh, sheep,
bualoes, and horses. e main products commercialized are:
Brazil nuts and latex;
cassava, banana, rice, and corn;
chicken, beef cattle, and swine. Income to the community is gen-
erated from extractivist activities, followed by agriculture and live-
stock (Acre, 2012).
Table 1 – General attributes for sustainable management systems.
Agroecosystem capacity to provide the required level
of goods and services. Represents the attribute value
(income, earnings, etc.) at a given time.
Stability and
Interconnected attributes relate to the system’s ability
to ensure a state of dynamic equilibrium, maintaining
its productive capacity in face of normal environmental
changes (stability) or aer suering severe or extreme
disturbances (resilience).
or Flexibility
Systems ability to nd new levels of balance and to continue
oering its benets in the face of long-term changes in
the environment (such as new economic or biophysical
conditions). is attribute also refers to the ability to
actively search for new levels or production strategies. is
concept ranges from aspects related to the diversication
of activities or technological options to processes of social
organization and training of human resources.
Systems ability to fairly distribute, both intra and
intergenerationally, the benets and costs related to the
management of natural resources.
Systems ability to regulate and control its interactions
with the outside world. It includes the organizational
processes and mechanisms of the socio-environmental
system to endogenously dene its own objectives,
priorities, identity, and values.
Source: translated from Masera etal. (1999).
Sustainability indicators of the Brazil nut tree management
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e eld research showed that the income from the Brazil nut man-
agement constitutes the main nancial source of families in thecom-
munity, accounting for more than 40% of the annual income of the
harvester’s families participating in this study.
is result corroborates the study of Duchelle etal. (2014), who
reported that the Brazil nut harvest accounts for 45% of the net income
of families in the Western Amazon.
Figure 4 shows the traditional agro-extractivist management sys-
tem of community residents, similar to practices at RESEX Chico
Mendes, where production units include various components and sub-
systems (forest, agricultural, and animal). e dynamic nature of agro-
ecosystems, which are constantly responding to internal and external
changes, are highlighted (Masera etal., 1999).
Figure 5 shows the main timeframes that somehow aected the
management of Brazil nut in the community, according to the har-
Figure 2 – Study site. (A) location of the Acre State and RESEX Chico Mendes; (B) area of RESEX Chico Mendes and municipalities included; (C) geopolitical
division of rubber plantations of RESEX Chico Mendes; (D) highlight of Seringal Porvir area with a satellite image superimposed on the map with an aerial
photo of the Boa Água site, location of the Wilson Pinheiro base nucleus.
Source: own data. Graphic design at Embrapa Acre. Google Satellite Images, 2017.
Figure 3 – MESMIS method evaluation cycle.
Source: translated from Masera etal. (1999).
Fonseca, F.L. et al.
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vesters participating in the diagnostic workshop held during the eld
phase of this research.
Community residents emphasized the foundation in 1993 and
bankruptcy in 2004 of the Agroextractive Cooperative of Epitaciolân-
dia and Brasileia Producers (Cooperativa Agropecuária de Epitaciolân-
dia e Brasileia – CAPEB).
CAPEB was founded with strong participation from the social
movement of rubber tappers and even operated a nut processing plant
in Brasiléia, provided by the state government of Acre in 2006. Due to
internal management problems, the cooperative was unable to sustain
the plant operation and cooperative producers, including those from
the Community Porvir, had to pay the debt with the production of Bra-
zil nuts at the time, which has been a factor of resistance to an initiative
of a new community in cooperativism (Simoni, 2009).
More recently, in 2017, harvesters highlighted the construction of
two community warehouses for Brazil nuts, with resources from the
State Government, through an agreement with the Inter-American De-
velopment Bank (IDB).
Another milestone for the community was the approval of the Proj-
ect “Castanhal – sustainable use of sociobiodiversity”, with resources
from the Amazon Fund, managed by the Banco do Brasil Foundation
(Fundação Banco do Brasil – FBB), approved in the Ecoforte Extractiv-
ismo public selection for associations of extractive activities in federal
protected areas. is was the rst project of this type managed by the
local association, representing a new experience for the community,
which also relies on the Bem Diverso Project as a partner for admin-
istrative and operational support. is project develops actions for
the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable management of nat-
ural resources in forest landscapes and agroforestry systems in three
Brazilian biomes (Amazon, Cerrado, and Caatinga) in partnership
between the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Empresa
Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária — Embrapa) and the United Na-
tions Development Program (UNDP), with resources from the Global
Environment Facility (GEF).
Unveiling sustainability with harvesters:
descriptors of a “good” management system
Table 2 presents the descriptors of a “good” Brazil nut management
system according to the perspectives of harvesters. e values in paren-
theses represent the number of answers given by the participants in the
diagnostic workshop for the same descriptor, relativized as a percent-
age, and the total grouped by the sustainability attribute.
ere is a prioritization of descriptors related to the attributes of
adaptability and self-management, although the descriptor “good pro-
duction” was the most cited among the total responses. e existence
of very objective descriptors characterizes a good management system,
Figure 4 – Flowchart of the traditional agro-extractivist system in the Community Porvir, RESEX Chico Mendes, Acre State, Brazil.
Source: prepared by the author based on the Community Development Plan (Plano de Desenvolvimento Comunitário – PDC) (Acre, 2012) and Masera etal. (1999).
Sustainability indicators of the Brazil nut tree management
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even when observed from the logic of scientic knowledge. In addi-
tion, the ecological knowledge of harvesters is evidenced by the high
relevance of descriptors for the stability of Brazil nut tree populations,
such as the presence of dispersers and pollinators, for example bumble
bees (Xylocopa spp.), as well as the existence of regeneration (young
Brazil nut trees). is knowledge is also expressed in the social and
economic dimensions, demonstrating a capacity for systemic vision.
Table 3 shows the matrix of limiting and strengthening points built
from the diagnostic workshop.
e low productivity of Brazil nuts trees in recent years is one of
the main limiting points pointed out by harvesters, due to ecological
and climatic factors, such as the perception of the senescence of Brazil
nut trees and the great droughts in Acre State in 2005 and 2017.
In recent decades, several studies have investigated the impacts of the
intensity of Brazil nut harvest on the stability of managed populations.
Peres etal. (2003) studied 23 populations of the Brazil nut species in the
Brazilian, Peruvian, and Bolivian Amazon and concluded that the hunting
of natural dispersers (such as agouti) and overexploitation of fruits in some
regions directly reduced the natural regeneration of B. excelsa species.
Recent studies (Wadt etal., 2005, 2008) have challenged some of
the hypotheses presented by Peres etal. (2003) in Acre. ese investi-
gations demonstrated a condition of dynamic equilibrium in the pop-
Figure 5 – Brazil nut Management timeline, Community Porvir, RESEX Chico Mendes – Acre State, Brazil.
Source: prepared by the author based on data collected in the research.
Table 2 – Descriptors of a “good” Brazil nut management system cited by
harvesters grouped by general sustainability attributes according to the
MESMIS Method framework.
Attributes Descriptors
Adaptability (41)
Nut transport tracks (4); well-kept Brazil nut trees (5);
access facilities (2); cleaning nut trees and removing
vines (7); cleaning peaks (4); mapping Brazil nut
trees (9); dierentiated market (2); national and
international markets (2); partnerships (2); harvest
planning (2); use of good management practices (4)
Family warehouse for storage (2); good communication
(2); good organization (4); know production of Brazil
nuts (2); quality nuts for good sales (9); vehicle to
transport the nut (2); direct sales (2).
Productivity (18)
Good production (11); good income to the producer
(4); production monitoring (2); quantity and quality
of nut trees (2)
Equity (11) Women participating in harvest and income (2); fair
price and nancial return (9)
and resilience (9)
Absence of use of poisonous chemicals in Brazil nut
stands and surrounding areas (2); presence of agouti
- Dascyprocta spp. (2); presence of bumble bees (4);
presence of young Brazil nut trees (2)
Source: elaborated by the authors from data collected in the research.
Fonseca, F.L. et al.
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Table 3 – Matrix of limiting and strengthening points in the Brazil nut management, Community Porvir, RESEX Chico Mendes – Acre State, Brazil.
Dimension Limiting points Strengthening points
Many old Brazil nut trees (end of the production cycle) Conserved Forest
Use of pesticides around RESEX Biodiversity richness
Presence of agouti and other rodents (nut dispersers) – fauna richness
Weaknesses in RESEX management system
Low productivity of Brazil nuts in recent years Good price
Sale to intermediaries
(no commitment to the community)
High market demand
Mastery of Best management practices for Brazil nut
Partnerships: Embrapa, Bem Diverso Project/UNDP, Ecoforte Extractivism
(cultural and
Lack of training – knowledge of the proper use of RESEX Extractive Culture
Weaknesses in the performance of the concessionaire
association Women participation
Lack of local organization for joint selling
Source: elaborated by the authors from data collected in the research.
ulations studied, according to the reverse-J pattern, in the frequency
distribution of Brazil nut trees by diameter class. According to the au-
thors, this structure suggests healthy demographic populations with
capacity for self-regeneration.
Ribeiro etal. (2014) also demonstrated a positive correlation be-
tween nut extraction by traditional populations and the stability of
managed tree populations. e authors studied Brazil nut trees under
dierent harvesting intensities in southern Pará. Scoles and Gribel
(2011, 2015) studied population ecology and regeneration of Brazil nut
trees in the Madeira and Trombetas River basins. ese studies showed
that the regeneration rates of Brazil nut trees are higher in managed
forest environments.
Zuidema and Boot (2002) used matrix models and concluded that
two populations of Brazil nut trees managed in Bolivia remain stable,
even under a harvest intensity of 93% of fruits. Bertwell etal. (2018)
conducted a population modeling study based on data from 14 years
of research in two managed areas in Acre State (Brazil) and concluded
that, instead of concentrating on the fate of most of the seeds produced,
the most pressing risk to B. excelsa populations is the survival of exist-
ing trees, particularly those nearing reproductive size and those that
are already producing.
Sustainability indicators of the environmental dimension
Table 4 shows the environmental indicators and the assessment re-
sults for four Brazil nut stands in Boa Água (I), Morada Nova (II), São
José (III), and Encontro (IV).
For the four Brazil nut stands, the environmental indicator with
the lowest score was “annual variation in the production of Brazil nuts,
due to a 30% drop in the production of the crop evaluated in relation
to the average for the region. erefore, this indicator represents an
undesirable condition for the sustainability of the activity.
Although the annual uctuations in fruit production are character-
istic of the species already well known by harvesters, production drops
in recent years were discrepant and never experienced even by older
harvesters, especially in the 2016/2017harvest.
Brazil nut harvesters attribute these drops to changes in the fre-
quency of rains, hindering nut formation.
Extreme weather events have become more frequent in southwest-
ern Amazon and the years 2005, 2010, and 2016 registered the most se-
vere droughts, causing forest res in thousands of hectares, increasing air
pollution and causing signicant economic losses (Oliveira etal., 2017).
Staudhammer etal. (2021) state that the variation in Brazil nut
fruit production in Acre State has also been aected by aspects related
to soil characteristics, vegetative competition, higher temperatures in
the dry season, and pressure decit of water vapor in the air.
e population dynamics of Brazil nut trees and interactions with
pollinators and dispersers showed favorable results, rated between “ac-
ceptable” and “ideal” conditions, demonstrating a positive correlation
regarding the attributes of stability, resilience, and reliability for the
management system studied.
In relation to the “deforestation” indicator, two sites evaluated are
within the limit of 10% of areas open for agricultural use, according
to the regulations for use of RESEX Chico Mendes (acceptable condi-
tion), while the others are congured as an “ideal” condition with less
than 10% of deforested area. In this community, deforestation is not
a critical problem as in other regions of this RESEX, with a tendency
Sustainability indicators of the Brazil nut tree management
RBCIAMB | v.56 | n.4 | Dec 2021 | 551-563 - ISSN 2176-9478
toward “pecuarization” (Gomes etal., 2012; Fittipaldy, 2017; Mascar-
enhas etal., 2018).
Comparison to other case studies carried out in tropical forest areas
using the MESMIS method shows that the indicators dened for the
environmental dimension are aligned with aspects generally monitored
in studies on forest management systems and family agroecosystems
(Silva etal., 2013; Proença and Massaroto, 2018; Roboredo etal., 2018).
Sustainability indicators of the technical-economic dimension
e indicators related to “Best management practices for Brazil nut”
were considered strategic by all interviewees, as nut quality depends on
the adoption of this set of actions. Having a product free from aatoxins
contamination is a matter of food safety, which is strongly related to
the sustainability of the activity. Since the main challenge related to the
quality of Brazil nuts is the high presence of contamination levels by
aatoxins, a mycotoxin produced by fungi of the genus Aspergillus.
Most indicators evaluated in the technical-economic dimension
received scores from 5 to 10, representing reference values between
“acceptable” and “ideal” conditions. Only the indicator “marketing
channels” revealed an undesirable situation for the good management
of Brazil nut trees. Table 5 presents the results for the four Brazil nut
trees studied.
Most indicators evaluated are related to the theme of best manage-
ment practices (BMP) in Brazil nut harvests, representing the set of
techniques adopted in the pre-harvest, harvest, and post-harvest stages
to ensure production quality, species conservation, and maintenance of
productive activity over time.
e scores from these indicators demonstrate that the stands
evaluated almost entirely adopt the guidelines proposed in the man-
uals of best management practices, showing that the harvest stage
still needs improvement.
Studies carried out at RESEX show that, despite the ease of appro-
priating BMP, the little adoption of these practices in the harvest and
post-harvest stages is due to factors such as the non-dierentiation of
price for the managed product, the high competition from buyers in
the triple border region (Brazil, Bolivia and Peru), the low management
capacity of local associations to seek dierentiated markets, and insu-
cient technical assistance to guide the BMP adoption and support prod-
uct quality monitoring (Wadt etal., 2016; Fonseca etal., 2019).
erefore, the aspects that limit the full adoption of BMP are di-
rectly related to marketing issues, except for the factor related to tech-
nical assistance aimed at product quality.
Conversely, points that favor the BMP adoption in the Community
Porvir refer to the existence of two community warehouses and a series
of family warehouses (built with resources from the Ecoforte Extrativ-
ismo project). In addition, the support of Embrapa Acre is paramount
in promoting the training of several families in the community in the
participatory mapping of Brazil nut trees, as well as the use of GPS in
the inventory of trees, and in best practices of collecting, storing, and
transporting the nut.
e assessment of sales channels revealed a critical situation, con-
gured as non-favorable for the activity sustainability, as it reects the
dependence of the community on intermediaries. According to har-
vesters, access to dierentiated markets through the adoption of new
marketing strategies and the organization of production is positive for
the community, as this access could provide opportunities for new so-
Table 4 – Scores attributed to sustainability indicators in the environmental
dimension in four Brazil nut stands in the Community Porvir, RESEX
Chico Mendes – Acre State, Brazil.
Indicators – Environmental
Brazil nut stands evaluated
1Annual variation in Brazil nut tree
fruit production 1111
2 Distribution in size classes 10 5 5 5
3Occurrence of native
bees and pollinators 5 10 5 5
4 Occurrence of Brazil nuts dispersers 5 10 10 10
5 Deforestation 10 5 10 5
6 Regeneration of Brazil nut tree 10 10 10 10
Final average 6.83 6.83 6.83 6.00
Source: elaborated by the authors from data collected in the research.
Table 5 – Scores attributed to the sustainability indicators of the technical-
economic dimension in four Brazil nut stands evaluated in Community
Porvir, RESEX Chico Mendes, Acre State, Brazil.
Indicators – Technical-Economic
Brazil nut stands evaluated
Best pre-harvest practices: mapping
Brazil nut trees and production
10 10 10 10
Best harvest practices: harvest
planning, recording annual
production of trees.
5 10 10 5
9Best post-harvest practices: storage
conditions 10 10 10 10
10 Brazil nut trees maintenance 10 10 10 10
11 Marketing channels 5 5 1 1
12 Income from nuts 10 10 10 10
Final average 8.33 9.17 8.50 7.67
Source: elaborated by the authors from data collected in the research.
Fonseca, F.L. et al.
RBCIAMB | v.56 | n.4 | Dec 2021 | 551-563 - ISSN 2176-9478
cial gains, such as work and income generation for young people and
women in the processing of nut-based products.
Over the past two years, association members and the community
have received training in marketing and institutional markets, as well
as participated in exchanges with other cooperatives. ese actions
stimulated reection and discussion about new collective alternatives
for marketing and adding value to the product.
e evaluation of the indicator “income from nuts” obtained the
highest score, justied by the fact that the nancial income obtained
from the product sale accounts for more than 40% of the annual in-
come of harvesters’ families participating in the study. is reinforces
the important role that Brazil nut management plays in supporting the
livelihood of thousands of Amazonian residents.
Sustainability indicators of the social dimension
Table 6 shows that most indicators evaluated for the social dimension
are situated between “acceptable” and “ideal” conditions, with the exception
of the indicator “presence of support institutions”, which had the lowest ref-
erence score for one of the participating families. For this dimension, the
group represented in the evaluation workshop reects the sample of families
most involved with the association and the collective activities as a whole.
All families considered an “acceptable” level for the “access to infor-
mation” indicator, since the community already has mobile telephones
through a rural antenna and TV signal, although radio continues to be
the main means of communication. e community has also beneted
from several training courses in recent years.
e sharing of work and family income was considered “ideal” for
three families and “acceptable” for one. Women participation is consid-
ered a strength for this community. e information is conrmed by
the PDC (Acre, 2012), which indicated the engagement of women in
decision-making, production tasks, and community activities.
Likewise, the indicator “social organization” was considered “ide-
al” for three families and “acceptable” for one, revealing the active
engagement of the harvesters participating in the study, both in the
association and in other community activities. e survey carried out
during the PDC (Acre, 2012) showed that 28 of the 36 families in the
community were members of the association, equivalent to 77.7%.
As for “knowledge about the proper use of the RESEX”, only one
family claimed to know all the existing regulations and management
instruments, while three families claimed to know only one of the
regulations (Use Plan). Farias (2013) reported a similar situation in a
study carried out with representatives of 23 base centers of the RESEX,
which revealed that 96% of respondents knew about the Use Plan for
this Conservation Unit while 87% said they did not know the Manage-
ment Plan nor the dierence between this regulation and the Use Plan.
e indicator “fair price” was considered “acceptable” (price that
remunerates only the labor and cost for extracting the nut) by three
families and ideal for one family (price that pays environmental service
and role of harvesters in addition to labor and production cost). is
result demonstrates that most harvesters consider that the price paid
for Brazil nuts still does not remunerate other socio-environmental
services associated to forest conservation. According to Angelo etal.
(2013), the price of Brazil nuts in the domestic market is determined
by a series of variables, namely nut production, income, exchange
rate, road network, and deforestation rate. However, Acre State has
no governmental program for the payment of environmental services
or state subsidies, as observed for latex production. Rubber tappers in
Acre receive incentives via a government subsidy paid per kg of rubber
produced (Law Chico Mendes No. 1.277 of January 13th, 1999) and
also an additional amount via international payment for environmen-
tal service programs linked to the reduction of emissions by avoided
deforestation (REDD).
e indicator “presence of support institutions” received scores be-
tween “undesirable” and “acceptable” conditions. ere is no ongoing
technical assistance for families at RESEX. Some services in Techni-
cal, Social, and Environmental Assistance (Assistência Técnica, Social
e Ambiental – ATES) have already been provided with Brazilian Colo-
nization and Land Reform Agency (Instituto Nacional de Colonização
e Reforma Agrária – INCRA) resources, but in a discontinued manner.
Radial graphics have been widely used to integrate results of re-
search involving participatory evaluation, as they allow an easy-to-un-
derstand presentation of results (Masera et al., 1999; Comin et al.,
2016). is type of graphical representation shows the problems and
potentialities of the management system in an integrated manner,
considering each axis where the indicators selected for evaluation are
found. Values closer to the outside of the graph represent aspects closer
to the ideal condition.
Figure 6 presents a radial chart with the results of all indicators and
dimensions evaluated for native Brazil nut trees in the Community Por vir.
Table 6 – Scores attributed to sustainability indicators for Social Dimension
in four Brazil nut stands evaluated in Community Porvir, RESEX Chico
Mendes, Acre State, Brazil.
Indicators - Social Dimension Brazil nut stands evaluated
13 Access to information 5 5 5 5
14 Sharing work and family income 10 10 5 10
15 Social Organization 5 10 10 10
16 Knowledge about the proper use of
RESEX 5 5 10 5
17 Fair price 10 5 5 5
18 Presence of support institutions 5 5 1 5
Final average 6.67 6.67 6.00 6.67
Source: elaborated by the authors from data collected in the research.
Sustainability indicators of the Brazil nut tree management
RBCIAMB | v.56 | n.4 | Dec 2021 | 551-563 - ISSN 2176-9478
e creation of a framework of indicators, built with the collabora-
tion of community, based on the MESMIS method associated with oth-
er participatory research tools, allowed the articulation of knowledge
(traditional and scientic) and the construction of a set of 18 strategic
sustainability indicators (including evaluation parameters) with easy
access to harvesters.
e set of indicators built, contemplating the environmental, tech-
nical-economic, and social dimensions, as well as dierent sustainabil-
ity attributes, showed good applicability for participatory evaluations
in the context of the management system studied.
e research sampling is reduced (only one community and only
one evaluation cycle), which can be a limiting factor to infer about the
viability of this set of indicators to monitor sustainability of the native
Brazil nut management in dierent situations and scales. Nevertheless,
the indicators evaluated serve as a basis for building similar processes
in other communities, considering the local specicities of each man-
agement system and the dialog with harvesters.
General recommendations to improve sustainability of the systems
studied are:
Long-term research to better understand factors that aect pro-
duction of Brazil nut trees and recommend silvicultural practices
to improve production;
Search for partnerships, projects, and/or learning processes to in-
crease the management capacity of the local association and aggregate
product value and dierentiation, and seek dierentiated markets;
Community organization to dene commercialization strategies
that are benecial to the community and to guarantee the full
adoption of best management practices, achieving quality stan-
dards for nuts that favor access to dierentiated markets.
e authors wish to thank the harvesters who live in Community
Porvir/RESEX Chico Mendes for embracing this research, for the part-
nership, and participation in the development of the study. We are also
grateful to Embrapa, which made this research feasible through the
corporate graduate program. We also thank Universidade Federal de
Santa Catarina (UFSC) for providing all the necessary structure to car-
ry out the Master’s Dissertation, which originated this article. Finally,
we thank ICMBio for granting the authorization to carry out the study.
Figure 6 – Integration of the evaluation results of indicators for four native Brazil nut stands in the Community Porvir, RESEX Chico Mendes – Acre State, Brazil.
Source: prepared by the author based on data collected in the research.
Fonseca, F.L. et al.
RBCIAMB | v.56 | n.4 | Dec 2021 | 551-563 - ISSN 2176-9478
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Trees in the upper canopy contribute disproportionately to forest ecosystem productivity. The large, canopy-emergent Bertholletia excelsa also supports a multimillion-dollar commodity crop (Brazil nut), harvested almost exclusively from Amazonian forests. B. excelsa fruit production, however is extremely variable within populations and years, destabilizing local harvester livelihoods and the extractive economy. To understand this variability, data were collected in Acre, Brazil over 10 years at two sites with similar climate and forest types, but different fruit production levels, despite their proximity (~ 30 km). One site consistently produced more fruit, showed less individual- and population-level variability, and had significantly higher soil P and K levels. The strongest predictor of fruit production was crown area. Elevation and sapwood area also significantly impacted fruit production, but effects differed by site. While number of wet days and dry season vapor pressure prior to flowering were significant production predictors, no climatic variables completely captured annual observed variation. Trees on the site with higher available P and K produced nearly three times more fruits, and appeared more resilient to prolonged drought and drier atmospheric conditions. Management activities, such as targeted fertilization, may shield income-dependent harvesters from expected climate changes and production swings, ultimately contributing to conservation of old growth forests where this species thrives.
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O presente artigo teve por objetivo comprovar que o método MESMIS (Marco de Evaluación de Sistemas de Manejo Incorporando Indicadores de Sustentabilidad) pode ser usado para medir a sustentabilidade de ambientes rurais em diferentes realidades. Para isso foi realizada uma revisão sistemática de literatura sobre o método em seis renomadas bases de artigos científicos, onde foram feitas buscas do ano 1999 ao ano de 2019 e os artigos encontrados foram subdivididos de acordo com o ano da publicação, atividade produtiva avaliada, região geográfica onde a pesquisa foi realizada, entre outras classificações. Ao final foi possível constatar que o MESMIS vem tendo seu uso aumentado nos últimos anos, sendo que as pesquisas publicadas que utilizaram o método são principalmente sobre a medição da sustentabilidade de atividades de agricultura e produção animal, realizadas na maioria das vezes nas Américas e Europa, porém também com uso em outros continentes, comprovando assim a capacidade do método em medir sustentabilidade em cenários distintos.
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Maintaining the abundance of carbon stored aboveground in Amazon forests is central to any comprehensive climate stabilization strategy. Growing evidence points to indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) as buffers against large-scale carbon emissions across a nine-nation network of indigenous territories (ITs) and protected natural areas (PNAs). Previous studies have demonstrated a link between indigenous land management and avoided deforestation, yet few have accounted for forest degradation and natural disturbances—processes that occur without forest clearing but are increasingly important drivers of biomass loss. Here we provide a comprehensive accounting of aboveground carbon dynamics inside and outside Amazon protected lands. Using published data on changes in aboveground carbon density and forest cover, we track gains and losses in carbon density from forest conversion and degradation/disturbance. We find that ITs and PNAs stored more than one-half (58%; 41,991 MtC) of the region’s carbon in 2016 but were responsible for just 10% (−130 MtC) of the net change (−1,290 MtC). Nevertheless, nearly one-half billion tons of carbon were lost from both ITs and PNAs (−434 MtC and −423 MtC, respectively), with degradation/disturbance accounting for >75% of the losses in 7 countries. With deforestation increasing, and degradation/disturbance a neglected but significant source of region-wide emissions (47%), our results suggest that sustained support for IPLC stewardship of Amazon forests is critical. IPLCs provide a global environmental service that merits increased political protection and financial support, particularly if Amazon Basin countries are to achieve their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
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The practical guide is intended as a tool for easy use by farmers, technical assistance technicians, high school and college students to evaluate the quality of management practices and the planning of actions in the production units. Soil Quality Assessments need to go beyond information and tools for activity planning and management, such as productivity rates, production costs, physical and chemical analyzes of soil and plant tissue. Such analyzes are punctual and can lead to decision-making without a broader diagnosis of the production system, with a view to the sustainability of the production unit and compliance with soil Ecosystem Services. On the other hand, even if the evaluations cannot encompass this complexity, but allowing the inclusion of farmers in a participatory manner, they will point out their local realities and needs, as well as the relevant indicators, making the most appropriate way to reach integrative evaluations. from soil. Carrying out the process of reflection and debate on soil quality and recovery with the participation of the main subjects involved contributes to the process of social and environmental transformation of agroecosystems. From the participatory soil quality assessment method, the farmer himself wonders about the form of production, the use of the soil and the reflection of his actions so that the soil properly fulfills its functions and for its well-being. By using indicators, it will be possible to verify, on farms, in different production systems, the negative or positive effects of management practices on the sustainability of agroecosystems. Moreover, its variables can be evaluated repeatedly, which is very important to monitor soils during the cropping system, or during the ecological transition process, where different management practices are introduced over time.
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In the last three decades, Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) has emerged as a cornerstone species for Amazonia. This has gone hand-in-hand with the creation of extractive reserves, an alternative land use model to balance biodiversity conservation with rural development, whereby traditional forest residents are assigned legal responsibility for co-management of these reserves and their resources, including Brazil nut. The essential role of this species in conservation and local livelihoods has precipitated a shift from general exploitation to more conscious, intensive management. Drawing heavily on our more than 25 years of research in the Brazilian state of Acre and the larger body of B. excelsa research across the Amazon basin, we ask: (1) Are Brazil nut harvests sustainable in terms of fruit production patterns and resilience to nut (seed) collection? (2) In what ways might production be augmented and nut quality enhanced? We highlight that scientific evidence and local knowledge indicate that current levels of nut harvests are compatible with sustaining populations of B. excelsa and its key seed disperser, Dasyprocta spp. Rather than concentrating on the fate of most seeds produced, the more pressing risk to B. excelsa populations is survival of existing large trees. Moreover, ample knowledge indicates possible futures to increase productivity by protecting and improving conditions of these large trees. Cutting lianas from host tree crowns dramatically improves productivity over time. Additional promising ways to grow Brazil nut-rich forests include: (1) Search and map previously unharvested productive trees located beyond traditional collection trails, (2) Tend new recruits, particularly in abandoned swidden fallows, and (3) Conduct enrichment plantings to establish small-scale intensive groves. Upgraded drying, storage and processing have led to dramatic improvements in nut quality and market access over the last 30 years. The growing knowledge base and diverse management interventions examined help promote Brazil nut sustainability and maintain its critical role in conserving Amazonian forests.
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O presente artigo visa inferir as condições do ideal de sustentabilidade em agroecossistemas orgânicos de base familiar no município de Alta Floresta/MT. Foram avaliados os atributos dos agroecossistemas produtivos familiares, por meio da mensuração de 26 indicadores de sustentabilidade em cinco unidades produtivas orgânicas, utilizando como ferramenta a metodologia “MESMIS” (Marco para Avaliação de Sistemas de Manejo de Recursos Naturais Incorporando Indicadores de Sustentabilidade). Verificou-se que a riqueza de espécies manejadas nos agroecossistemas orgânicos familiares amazônicos é um fator chave de sucesso na manutenção da sua resiliência e estabilidade. Por outro lado, notou-se como imprescindível a necessidade de adoção de técnicas agroecológicas, uma vez que estas interferem diretamente na autogestão dos agroecossistemas.
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Sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI), which displays an intention to develop a product or service that contributes to economic, environmental, and social sustainability, has drawn growing institutional and academic attention, due to the general consideration that innovation is an essential part of achieving sustainability. For developments of this nature, it is considered that foreign direct investment (FDI) helps companies to meet the requirements demanded by SOI, however, they show different cooperation patterns, and so it is not known what path they must take to achieve it. In this context, this paper uses comparative analysis to try to shed light on the possible differences in the paths taken to achieve SOI by companies with and without FDI, taking into account their different form of knowledge management. To achieve this objective, it has been necessary to build new sustainability indicators (economic, environmental, and social) that allow the evaluation of the sustainability of these processes, considering the sustainability objectives that guided companies towards innovation. Using a logit model for 5897 Spanish companies during the period 2009–2014, this paper contributes both theoretically and empirically to emerging research into the opening of sustainable innovation. It provides a better understanding of the different channels for accessing knowledge for SOI, and examining these channels through absorptive capacity and cooperation, according to its age and size.
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O governo brasileiro apoiou irrestritamente a ocupação da Amazônia Legal com créditos altamente subsidiados para substituir a floresta por atividades agropastoris com a justificativa de que precisava ocupar aquela região para soberania nacional. Deste modo, o governo federal investiu fortemente na região, sem nenhuma preocupação ambiental. O objetivo deste trabalho foi identificar agrupamentos familiares homogêneos e o nível de degradação socioambiental desses clusters na Microbacia Hidrográfica Mariana (MBM) localizada no município de Alta Floresta/MT, situada no Território Portal da Amazônia. Para tanto foram estudados os atributos físicos e químicos dos solos, análise das águas superficiais, realização de entrevistas semiestruturadas e aplicação da metodologia MESMIS (Marco para la Evaluación de Sistemas de Manejo de Recursos Naturales) para construção de indicadores de sustentabilidade socioambiental. Na clusterização empregou-se quatro técnicas de Estatística Multivariada, as quais indicaram dois sistemas de manejos na microbacia. Com as 56 famílias pesquisadas foram construídos indicadores para comparar a sustentabilidade entre eles. O marco MESMIS identificou que aquele espaço rural encontra-se muito longe do ideal de sustentabilidade tendo em vista o baixo índice agregado obtido no cluster 1 (35%) e no cluster 2 (35,2%), corroborado pela visão dos atores sociais urbanos que atingiu 40,2%, gerando o índice geral médio de 36,8%, indicando que a MBM encontra-se na condição “não sustentável ou crítica”.
Harvest of Brazil nuts from the large, iconic tree Bertholletia excelsa generates substantial income for smallholders, providing a strong incentive to conserve the mature forests where it grows. Although much previous work has focused on the impact of nut harvest on new seedling recruits into B. excelsa populations, the connection between harvest rates and long-term population stability is still unclear. Moreover, there is additional uncertainty for Brazil nut management in terms of population response to climate change and other anthropogenic influences. We drew on 14 years of research in two sites in Acre, Brazil with different B. excelsa nut harvest intensities (39% and 81%), to produce stochastic and deterministic matrix population models which incorporated parameter uncertainty in vital rates. Adult abundance was projected to remain close to the current observed abundance or higher through the next 50 years. Elasticity analyses revealed that the asymptotic population growth rate (λ) was most sensitive to stasis vital rates in sapling, juvenile, and adult stages. Deterministic transition matrices calculated using diameter growth rates dependent on rainfall yielded average λ values around 1.0 under extreme high, extreme low, and average annual rainfall. While sustained high rates of Brazil nut harvest and climate change could potentially negatively impact B. excelsa populations, changes in human use of the forested landscape are more immediate concern. To reduce the risk of population decline, smallholders and managers of B. excelsa rich forests should focus on conservation of pre-mature and mature individuals.