The Peruvian Amazon Floodplains

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Ch.1 Introduction

1.1 Introduction

The river dynamics in Amazon floodplains of northeastern Peru contribute to socio-economic and natural environments characterized by dynamism and uncertainty (Pinedo-Vasquez et al., 2002). The ‘flood pulse’ exerts a profound influence on the land resources driving the floodplain system and strongly determining environmental conditions and local livelihoods (Winklerprins, 1997; Junk, 2001; Glouding et al., 1996). The most fertile soils of the Amazon Basin are along turbid, ‘white water’ rivers, such as the Amazon due to the annual rejuvenation of alluvial rich sedimentation carried down from the recently uplifted Andean mountains and the alluvium rich lowland river basins (Smith et al., 2001; Hiraoka, 1995;
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Amazonian floodplains make up 2 percent of the Amazon Basin and 12 percent of the lowland Peruvian Amazon yet provide a large share of extracted resources and sustain many rural villages (Hiraoka, 1988; Junk, 2000; Kvist & Nebel, 2001). Floodplains are considered the most feasible location for sustainable agricultural development in the Amazon; the ‘open’ system of nutrient cycling is sufficient enough to allow annual use of the land with no additional inputs (Chibnik, 1994). The floodplain is “both fertile and naturally unstable” thus is considered less fragile than the upland and able to withstand greater anthropogenic interference (Kalliola et al., 1999, p.279). In seasonally flooded areas the length of the growing season is dependent on elevation and water levels, with the short growing season being the major drawback to this cropping location (Hiraoka, …show more content…
Most floodplain agriculturalists diversify distinct crops across habitats and sites, termed “multiple biotope management,” and earn income through other economic activities such as fishing, hunting and forest extraction (Kvist et al. 2001; Kvist & Nebel, 2001; Hiraoka, 1989 & 1995). According to Junk (2001), floodplain agriculturalists in the Brazilian Amazon prefer to diversify distinct crops across habitats and sites and accept lower incomes to avoid risky or deleterious situations. He continues that they could increase their income by improving land and labour productivity; however, this would also increase the potential for market and productivity risks, thus leading to income fluctuations. The flood pulse, while providing more fertile lands, limits the development of intensive agriculture due to the synchronous seasonality of floodplain crops as sowing and harvesting is dependent on low water levels and products thus saturate the market and reduce prices (Junk,