History of natural resource use and environmental impacts in an interfluvial upland forest area in western Amazonia
Keywords:Amazonia, Ecuador, Environmental history, Forest clearing, Hunting, Indigenous peoples
Much of the research done on environmental impacts by Amazonian indigenous peoples in the past focus on certain areas where archaeological remains are particularly abundant, such as the Amazon River estuary, the seasonally inundated floodplain of the lower Amazon, and various sites in the forest-savannah mosaic of the southern Amazon The environmental history of interfluvial upland areas has received less attention. This study reconstructed the history of human use of natural resources in an upland area of 1400 km2 surrounding the indigenous Kichwa community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon, based on oral history elicited from local elders as well as historical source documents and some modern scientific studies. Although data is scarce, one can conclude that the impacts of humans on the environment have varied in time and space in quite intricate ways. Hunting has affected, and continues affecting, basically the whole study area, but it is now more concentrated in space than what it has probably ever been before. Also forest clearing has become more concentrated in space but, in addition, it has gone from affecting only hilltops forests to affecting alluvial plains as well as hilltops and, lately, also the slopes of the hills.