Ecology

No Shortage of Nuts

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Science  25 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5555, pp. 587
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5555.587a

The Brazil nut tree, Bertholletia excelsa, is a large Amazonian forest tree that can reach at least 50 m in height. Its seeds are a good example of an economically important nontimber forest product, offering potential for conservation incentives: Where forest is destroyed surrounding Bertholletia trees, the fall in pollinator populations can severely reduce the crop. Even in relatively undisturbed forest, however, Brazil nuts can be gathered with such efficiency that doubts have been raised about the long-term sustainability of the crop if insufficient seeds remain to produce viable new trees. To assess the impact of exploitation on tree populations, Zuidema and Boot examined the demography of Bertholletia in Bolivian forests where the nuts have been harvested for many decades. Despite extraction rates of >90% of the nuts, a matrix population model suggests that the population levels of seedlings and saplings will be sufficient to sustain the crop for several decades, if not longer. — AMS

J. Trop. Ecol.18, 1 (2002).

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