Patterns of resource use and human settlement in tropical forests

TitlePatterns of resource use and human settlement in tropical forests
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1983
AuthorsPadoch, C, Vayda, AP
EditorGolley, FB
Book TitleTropical rain forest ecosystems: Structure and function
Secondary TitleEcosystems of the world no. 14A
Date Published1983
PublisherElsevier Scientific Publishing Company
CityNew York
Call NumberQH541.5.R27T76 1983

Criticisms of traditional resource use patterns in the tropics as wasteful and inefficient predominated in the literature in the past, but has given way in recent years to praise of the stability and conservativeness of these technologies. Such revised views are not surprising and are at least partially justified. They reflect the realization that traditional resource users usually allowed tropical forests to survive or at least to largely regenerate, whereas modern, fossil fuel-using man is expected to destroy these forests within the next century. However, in stressing the long-term persistence of traditional patterns, the: necessity" and universality of some techniques and the self-sufficience and integrity of pre-modern resource use systems, commentators have done justice neither to the complexity nor the variability -- temporal, spatial, and technological -- of traditional human accommodations to tropical forests.

In this chapter, the authors review some of the conventional ways of viewing and classifying traditional resource use patterns, then point out some of the limitations of these familiar typologies, and finally discuss actual subsistence and settlement patterns in tropical forests, and comment on prospects for development of these areas.

In most broad discussions of indigenous resource use, some typology of food-getting technologies and/or of crops, crop types or crop assemblages, is meant to subsume the basic patterns of livelihood of all traditional groups. The division of technologies into hunting-gathering, shifting, cultivation, and permanent-field cropping is probably most familiar and commonly employed. These three very broad divisions of the spectrum of traditional subsistence, often erroneously assumed to be a necessary evolutionary sequence, are used by anthropologists and geographers to designate different levels of intensity of land resource use, as well as to differentiate levels of control and modification of forest environments. Observers have generally considered the following practices and patterns, technological and social, to be characteristic of these three very general types.


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