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Human settlement and landscape transformation in the Brazilian Amazon

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Gabriel Henrique Lui
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Master's Dissertation
Press: Piracicaba.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Silvia Maria Guerra Molina; William Lockert Balee; Maria Victoria Ramos Ballester
Advisor: Silvia Maria Guerra Molina

In this planet, very few environments are free from anthropogenic disturb. The prehistoric populations used to play significant roles for the formation of some kind of landscapes; the consequences of their actions contributed to the present landscape characteristics. At the Amazon, these transformations are inferred from anthropogenic vestiges, such as: (1) burned areas in the forest; (2) human settlements; (3) managed forest islands; (4) geometrical ditches; (5) dark soils; (6) raised fields; (7) transportation and communication networks; (8) water and fish management structures; among others. The established ways of natural resources uses by pre- Columbian population were looked to down since European colonization in the sixteenth century. The introduction of new tools and cultural shock given by European settlers changed the level of energy necessary to human productive activities, changing the population ways of life. From the middle of the twentieth century, the diffusion of institutional settlement programs led to new motivations for landscape transformation, through which the extraction of forest products has become secondary activity, and give rise to a logic of forest suppression and introduction of new production lines to external context. Furthermore, the land was delimited as private properties, which would only be recognized after forest removal in order to start productive activities. Therefore, there was an exponential growth in space-time scale of landscape transformations. Through complementation and interface among evolutionary, historical and social perspectives, this work has proposed to characterize the different settlement dynamics in the Amazon landscapes, since the arrival of human beings up to now, in order to understand how the development of social organization and technologies was able to change the landscapes in the past, and how they do it today. The data were analyzed as a temporal sequencing. Three distinct settlement dynamics were characterized and nominated considering different levels of landscape transformation, along the historical contexts of the studied periods in this work: (1) Dynamic of Diversification (9000 BC to 1600 AD); (2) Dynamic of Simplification (1600 AD to 1960 AD); and (3) Dynamic of Suppression (from 1960 AD on). A conclusion was assumed that landscape concept depends on the existence of two elements: nature and mankind. While these two elements coexist, the landscape will always be present, despite their characteristics. Thus, in 11000 years of coexistence between mankind and Amazon forest it was not threatened the landscape sustainability, but the sustainability of the societies themselves. This complex ecological, social and economical situation which Amazon is currently undergoing has as main characteristic the presence of 85% of this area in good conservation conditions. Such ratio gives to Brazil the responsibility to develop new environmental management techniques that consider the regional specificities, matching sustained economic development of the nation and conservation of the most important tropical forest of the world. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 06/54927-4 - Dynamics of human settlement in the Brazilian Amazon: evolution of modes of production and subsistence models as factors of landscape transformation
Grantee:Gabriel Henrique Lui
Support type: Scholarships in Brazil - Master