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Satellite Images Combined with Field Data Reveal Negative Changes in the Distribution of Babassu Palms after Clearing off Amazonian Forests

  • Mitja, D.1
  • Delaître, E.1
  • Santos, A. M.1, 2, 3
  • Miranda, I.2
  • Coelho, R. F. R.4
  • Macedo, D. J.1
  • Demagistri, L.1
  • Petit, M.5
  • 1 UMR 228 ESPACE DEV (IRD-Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UM-Université de Montpellier, UG-Université de Guyane, UR-Université de La Réunion, UA-Université des Antilles), MTD-IRD, 500 Rue Jean François Breton, Montpellier Cedex 5, 34093, France , Montpellier Cedex 5 (France)
  • 2 ISARH-Instituto Ambiental e de Recursos Hídricos, UFRA-Universidade Federal Rural da Amazônia, CP.917, Belém, Pará, 66077-530, Brazil , Belém (Brazil)
  • 3 IEDAR-Instituto de Estudos em Desenvolvimento Agrário e Regional (UNIFESSPA-Universidade Federal do Sul e Sudeste do Pará), Folha 31 Quadra 07 Lote Especial, Nova Marabá, Marabá, Pará, 68507-590, Brazil , Marabá (Brazil)
  • 4 IFPA-Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia do Pará- Campus Castanhal, Br-316 km 62s/n. Bairro Saudades II - Cristo Redentor, Castanhal, Pará, 68740-970, Brazil , Castanhal (Brazil)
  • 5 IRD, 911 avenue agropolis, Montpellier, 34394, France , Montpellier (France)
Published Article
Environmental Management
Publication Date
Nov 28, 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s00267-017-0965-6
Springer Nature


When the Amazonian rain forest is cut to create pasture, some of the original vegetal species survive clearing, even expressing their ability to invade agro-systems. It is true of the babassu palm, which can be considered, paradoxically, a natural resource by the “Interstate Movement of Babassu Fruit Breaker Women” or as native weed by land owners-farmers. To manage potential conflict of land uses, we study here the current density of this palm tree in different habitats, based on a combination of field data and remote sensing data. Firstly, we checked that the field survey methodology (i.e., counting free-trunk palm trees over 20 cm in circumference) provides density values compatible with those stemming from satellite images interpretation. We can see then that, a PA-Benfica Brazilian territory revealed an average density of the babassu lower in pastures (2.86 ind/ha) than in the dense forest (4.72 ind/ha) from which they originate and than in fallow land (4.31 ind/ha). We analyze in detail density data repartition in three habitats and we discuss results from the literature on the density of this palm tree versus its resilience at different developmental stages after forest clearing, depending on anthropogenic—or not—factors, including solar radiation, fire, weeding, clear cutting, burying fruit, and competition with forage grass. All these results can be exploited for the design of future management plans for the babassu palm and we think that the linked methodology and interdisciplinary approach can be extended to others palms and trees species in similar problematic issues.

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