Fishing and hunting in the Amazon floodplain:linkages among biodiversity conservation, rural livelihoods and food security

Tregidgo, Daniel (2017) Fishing and hunting in the Amazon floodplain:linkages among biodiversity conservation, rural livelihoods and food security. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Billions of people rely on wild meat (wild fish and bushmeat) for their livelihood and food security, but unsustainable harvesting is causing pan-tropic defaunation. In addition to the decline of prey populations, many harvest-dependent societies in these regions are witnessing major social and environmental changes, including; rapid urbanisation, population growth, (unequal) socio-economic development, nutritional transitions, policy alterations, habitat conversion and climatic change. Despite the potential importance of these changes for biodiversity and human well-being, our understanding of how these changes are impacting the dynamics of harvesting systems is poor. In this thesis I engage with four major knowledge gaps, in particular. The first is that we know almost nothing about the relative influence of emergent large rainforest cities on wildlife. Second, the suggested connections between defaunation and food insecurity have weak empirical foundations. Third, links between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are largely neglected. And fourth, despite recent recognition of their importance, social-ecological feedbacks in tropical harvesting systems remain woefully understudied. Hence, my overall aim in this thesis was to address these and related knowledge gaps by investigating the drivers and dynamics of contemporary wildlife harvesting in the Amazon, and assess the outcomes for biodiversity and rural food security. I focus on rural Amazonians, amongst who high levels of social marginalization, multi-dimensional poverty and food insecurity have been identified. These people are juxtaposed between traditional lives where seasons dictate subsistence wildlife harvesting, and a modern Amazonia in which rural livelihoods are increasingly influenced by the demands of growing urban areas, home to three out of four Amazonians. This PhD study was designed to capture the influences of the seasonal flood pulse and urban markets (metropolitan and provincial) in an extensive and largely-forested area of the Amazon floodplain. This was achieved by interviewing households in 22 communities during both the high and low water season along a 1,267 km stretch of the River Purus, the most important river for commercial fishing for Manaus, Amazonia’s largest city of over 2 million people. Food insecurity was assessed during 556 household visits, in which time nearly 600 different harvesters were interviewed about their hunting and fishing activities, including detailed catch and effort data concerning 886 fishing trips. I show that Manaus’ favourite fish species (tambaqui, Colossoma macropomum) halves in body size and catch rate (catch-per-unit-effort in biomass; CPUEb) within several hundreds of kilometres of the city, with defaunation detectable 1000 km into the rainforest wilderness (Chapter 2). Despite defaunation of the main target species, rural fishers near to Manaus managed to maintain overall fish CPUEb, and levels of food insecurity were no worse than upstream (Chapter 3). Instead, I reveal severe seasonal food insecurity among the rural population associated with falls in aggregated fishing CPUEb of 73% during high waters. I provide novel evidence that food insecurity can result from significant falls in wildlife CPUEb (Chapter 3), and that this seasonal food insecurity may drive increased bushmeat offtake (Chapter 4). I also show in Chapter 4 how seasonal water-level and market forces can dictate wildlife harvesting profiles (akin to species assemblages). I provide evidence that the mechanism driving the defaunation seen in Chapter 1 and the differing harvest profiles in Chapter 4 is the regular service of city-based boats that purchase fish and deposit ice only in communities nearer to Manaus. Chapter 5 was inspired by listening to local voices, specifically, concerns that making a living is being increasing constrained by a combination of defaunation and environmental legislation. I explored these viewpoints using a social-ecological vulnerability framework, allowing me to better understand and voice their concerns, while contributing to the poorly studied concept of social-ecological feedbacks. Through these findings, I establish and advance key links between drivers and dynamics of contemporary wildlife harvesting in the Amazon, and the outcomes for biodiversity and rural food security. As such, I emphasise the importance of taking a holistic view of the research and management of harvesting systems to help achieve sustainable food systems in the Amazon, and across the planet.

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Thesis (PhD)
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16 May 2017 08:22
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 01:38