Many indigenous peoples in Brazil have practiced hunting with fire, and today Brazil's Xavante Indians often use fire to hunt game for ceremonial occasions such as weddings and rites of initiation. While the practice has also often been blamed for causing deforestation and increasing carbon dioxide emissions, the new study dispels this popular myth.
Based on analysis of 37 years of satellite imagery and long-term fieldwork, the researchers determined that hunting with fire by the Xavante Indians actually maintained ecological integrity and sustained vegetation recovery in areas that were previously deforested by agribusiness in the tropical savannas, or cerrado, of Brazil.
According to the study, "Indigenous Burning as Conservation Practice: Neotropical Savanna Recovery Amid Agribusiness Deforestation in Central Brazil," the deforested area under indigenous management inside the Pimentel Barbosa Indigenous Reserve decreased from 1.9 percent in 2000 to 0.6 percent in 2010. In contrast, deforestation in surrounding lands remaining under agribusiness management increased from 1.5 percent to 26 percent during the same period. The new work was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
Traditional indigenous burning in the cerrado is not usually destructive to plant and animal life and is unlikely to contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions over the long term, said Oswaldo Cruz Foundation co-author Carlos Coimbra Jr.
"Xavante hunting fires burn low and cool because highly flammable dead biomass is not allowed to accumulate for many years at a time. This gives animals ample escape routes and allows fire-resistant plants to regrow," he said.
The study also found that fire originated by the Xavante Indians is well-managed and contained.
"With ranches on all sides, Xavante hunters limit burning to hunting expeditions within the reserve," said lead author James R. Welch, also of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. "As a result, they work harder than ever to follow traditional protocols for where and when to use fire. By controlling fires according to the weather, winds, moisture and natural fire barriers, they successfully conserved the increasingly threatened cerrado vegetation."
In fact, since 2005, indigenous reserves have been responsible for more than 70 percent of the reduction in deforestation in Brazil, particularly in the Amazon and cerrado, according to study co-author Eduardo Brondizio.
"The Xavante situation at Pimentel Barbosa Reserve is emblematic of a puzzling phenomenon that is increasingly replicated throughout Brazil and the world: the formation of islands of environmental conservation surrounded by large-scale agribusiness," he said.
Brondizio is a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Anthropology and a faculty associate of the Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change and the Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, both research centers supported by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington.
The real challenge to conservation in the cerrado, he said, is not indigenous burning practices but how to achieve long-term sustainability of indigenous lands that are increasingly subsumed by agribusiness expansion. According to Brondizio, Xavante practices offer invaluable lessons regarding ecosystems and conservation.
"The Xavante show us how to maintain and use cultural practices to manage and recover the environment and call attention to the need to consider new governance systems that respect the rights of indigenous populations and promote conservation beyond reserves and protected areas," Brondizio says.
"Indigenous Burning as Conservation Practice: Neotropical Savanna Recovery Amid Agribusiness Deforestation in Central Brazil," by James R. Welch and Carlos E. A. Coimbra Jr. of Escola Nacional de Saude Publica, Fundaca Oswaldo Cruz, Brazil, and Eduardo S. Brondizio of IU Department of Anthropology and the Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change (ACT), and Scott S. Hetrick, also of ACT, was published Dec. 11, 2013, in PLOS ONE.
Steve Chaplin | EurekAlert!
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...
Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.
Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
19.09.2017 | Event News
19.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
19.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering