Eighty-four per cent of all Amazonian arboreal plant individuals are useful to humans

Sara D. Coelho*, Carolina Levis, Fabrício B. Baccaro, Fernando O.G. Figueiredo, André Pinassi Antunes, Hans ter Steege, Marielos Peña-Claros, Charles R. Clement, Juliana Schietti

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Plants have been used in Amazonian forests for millennia and some of these plants are disproportionally abundant (hyperdominant). At local scales, people generally use the most abundant plants, which may be abundant as the result of management of indigenous peoples and local communities. However, it is unknown whether plant use is also associated with abundance at larger scales. We used the population sizes of 4,454 arboreal species (trees and palms) estimated from 1946 forest plots and compiled information about uses from 29 Amazonian ethnobotany books and articles published between 1926 and 2013 to investigate the relationship between species usefulness and their population sizes, and how this relationship is influenced by the degree of domestication of arboreal species across Amazonia. We found that half of the arboreal species (2,253) are useful to humans, which represents 84% of the estimated individuals in Amazonian forests. Useful species have mean populations sizes six times larger than non-useful species, and their abundance is related with the probability of usefulness. Incipiently domesticated species are the most abundant. Population size was weakly related to specific uses, but strongly related with the multiplicity of uses. This study highlights the enormous usefulness of Amazonian arboreal species for local peoples. Our findings support the hypothesis that the most abundant plant species have a greater chance to be useful at both local and larger scales, and suggest that although people use the most abundant plants, indigenous people and local communities have contributed to plant abundance through long-term management.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0257875
    Pages (from-to)1-17
    Number of pages17
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number10
    Early online date1 Oct 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Funding:Thisworkwasfinancedinpartbythe Coordenac ¸ãodeAperfeic ¸oamentodePessoalde Nı ´vel Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - PROEX n. 0742/ 2020,bytheCoordenac¸ãodeAperfeic ¸oamentode Pessoal de Nı ´vel Superior-Brasil (CAPES)-FinanceCode001andbytheFundac ¸ãodeAmparo

    Funding Information:
    This work was financed in part by the Coordena??o de Aperfei?oamento de Pessoal de N?vel Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - PROEX n. 0742/ 2020, by the Coordena??o de Aperfei?oamento de Pessoal de N?vel Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001 and by the Funda??o de Amparo ? Pesquisa do Estado do Amazonas (FAPEAM) - PAPAC n. 005/2019. S.D.C., C.L., A.P.A. and C.R.C. thank the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cient?fico e Tecnol?gico (CNPq) for a Master?s scholarship, two post-doctoral scholarships and a research fellowship, respectively. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 Coelho et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

    Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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