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Sustainable palm fruit harvesting as a pathway to conserve Amazon peatland forests

C. Gabriel Hidalgo Pizango (), Eurídice N. Honorio Coronado, Jhon del Águila-Pasquel, Gerardo Flores Llampazo, Johan de Jong, César J. Córdova Oroche, José M. Reyna Huaymacari, Steve J. Carver, Dennis del Castillo Torres, Frederick C. Draper, Oliver L. Phillips, Katherine H. Roucoux, Sytze Bruin, Marielos Peña-Claros, Marieke Zon, Gordon Mitchell, Jon Lovett, Gabriel García Mendoza, Leticia Gatica Saboya, Julio Irarica Pacaya, Manuel Martín Brañas, Eliseo Ramírez Paredes and Timothy R. Baker
Additional contact information
C. Gabriel Hidalgo Pizango: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Eurídice N. Honorio Coronado: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Jhon del Águila-Pasquel: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Gerardo Flores Llampazo: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Johan de Jong: Wageningen University and Research
César J. Córdova Oroche: Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana
José M. Reyna Huaymacari: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Steve J. Carver: University of Leeds
Dennis del Castillo Torres: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Frederick C. Draper: University of Leeds
Oliver L. Phillips: University of Leeds
Katherine H. Roucoux: University of St Andrews
Sytze Bruin: Wageningen University
Marielos Peña-Claros: Wageningen University and Research
Marieke Zon: Wageningen University
Gordon Mitchell: University of Leeds
Jon Lovett: University of Leeds
Gabriel García Mendoza: Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana
Leticia Gatica Saboya: Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana
Julio Irarica Pacaya: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Manuel Martín Brañas: Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Eliseo Ramírez Paredes: Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana
Timothy R. Baker: University of Leeds

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 6, 479-487

Abstract: Abstract Sustainable management of intact tropical peatlands is crucial for climate change mitigation, for biodiversity conservation and to support the livelihoods of local communities. Here, we explore whether sustainable fruit harvesting from Mauritia flexuosa palms could support these linked goals by increasing fruit production and incomes across the 2.8 million hectares of the most carbon-dense ecosystem in Amazonia: the lowland peatlands of northeastern Peru. M. flexuosa is dioecious, and fruits are typically harvested by felling female palms; the proportion of female palms therefore provides a good indicator of the health of a stand. Across 93 widely distributed sites, we found that the proportion of female palms increases with travel time to the urban market, and overall, fruit harvesting has halved the current potential production and income from this resource. However, significantly more female palms are found where fruit are harvested by climbing. We estimate that region-wide uptake of climbing could eventually increase potential fruit production by 51% and increase its gross value to US$62 ± 28.2 million yr–1. These findings demonstrate the high cost of unsustainable resource extraction in Neotropical forests and outline a practical path to conserve and sustainably exploit one of the most carbon-rich landscapes on the planet.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00858-z

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