Certification of açaí agroforestry increases the conservation potential of the Amazonian tree flora

The harvesting of açaí berries (palm fruits from the genus Euterpe) in Amazonia has increased over the last 20 years due to a high local and global market demand and triggered by their widely acclaimed health benefits as a ‘superfood’. Although such increase represents a financial boom for local communities, unregulated extraction in Amazonia risks negative environmental effects including biodiversity loss through açai intensification and deforestation. Alternatively, the introduction of certified sustainable agroforestry production programs of açaí has been strategically applied to reduce the exploitation of Amazonian forests. Local açaí producers are required to follow principles of defined sustainable management practices, environmental guidelines, and social behaviors, paying specific attention to fair trade and human rights. In this study we investigate whether sustainable agroforestry and certification effectively promotes biodiversity conservation in Amazonia. To address this question, we conducted a forestry inventory in two hectares of long-term certified açai harvesting areas to gain further knowledge on the plant diversity and forest structure in açaí managed forests and to understand the contribution of certification towards sustainable forest management. On average, we found that certified managed forests harbor 50% more tree species than non-certified açaí groves. Trees in certified areas also have significantly higher mean basal area, meaning larger and hence older individuals are more likely to be protected. Certified harvesting sites also harbor dense populations of threatened species as classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (e.g. Virola surinamensis, classified as ‘endangered’). Besides increasing the knowledge of plant diversity in açaí managed areas, we present baseline information for monitoring the impact of harvesting activities in natural ecosystems in Amazonia.
© The Author(s)2022. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ . The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agroforestry Systems, 2022, available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10457-021-00727-2 . Keywords: Euterpe; açaí management; flooded forests; biodiversity conservation; Amazonia.
Damasco, G., Anhalt, M., Perdiz, R.O., Wittmann, F., de Assis, R. L., Schöngart, J., Piedade, M. T. F., Bacon, C. D., Antonelli, A., & Fine, P. V. A. (2022). Certification of açaí agroforestry increases the conservation potential of the Amazonian tree flora. Agroforestry Systems, 96, 407–416. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-021-00727-2