The ecology of Swidden cultivation in the Upper Orinoco rain forest, Venezuela

TitleThe ecology of Swidden cultivation in the Upper Orinoco rain forest, Venezuela
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1971
AuthorsHarris, DR
JournalThe Geographical Review
Date PublishedOctober 1971
Call NumberG1.G35
Keywordsarrowroot; bitter manioc; bottle gourd; cecropia trees; forest regeneration; Indian arrowleaf; mapuey yam; pejibaye; pijiaguao; rainforests; Rio Ocamo; sugar cane; tobacco; totuma; Waika Indians

Swidden, a word created by Harold C. Conklin, is defined as as systematic study of shifting cultivation. A survey on Swidden cultivation agreed on two principles themes, " a manmade ecosystem," and the way it relates to population and patterns of settlement. Scientist in Africa are working on the biological and pediological aspects of this technique. The upper Orinoco area of Venezuela is where most of the research is headed. The amount of time needed for research is the biggest obstacle to the study.

Along the Upper Orinoco rivers were ten conucos "plots in active cultivation," ten rastrojos, "fallow plots in the early stages of forest regeneration." In conucos, bananas and manioc were planted and flourished. The rastrojo was harder to pinpoint the growth because of the time and the regeneration process of the forest. It was not possible to tell the length of time that was to be studied.
The study of swidden revealed a change in soil nutrients. The nutrients that were changed were: organic carbon, phosphorus, exchangeable cellium and magnesium, all increased potassium and sodium decreased, as well as a change in pH.

Swidden had made a great contribution to the process of understanding ecology and evolution.

Number of pages

21 pp.

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