Monday, January 15, 2007

Where have all the Brazil nut trees gone?

Vultures seem to have a direct link with the dead, so it is not too surprising to see these two Brazil nut trees full of black vultures, the most common species around here. I'm not sure why they were hanging out there. They certainly weren't drying out from a rain because we haven't had any wetness for several weeks. Maybe they thought some was coming in those big, dark clouds. If so, they were wrong. But my reason for showing these dead trees is to report that the Brazil nut tree (Bertholetia excelsa) has been destroyed in unknown numbers with the coming of mechanized agriculture, i.e., soybean farming. I'm told that there is a law or decree that prohibits the cutting of this tree because it is considered a national asset because of the valuable nutrients found in the nut, especially in the form of protein. I guess cattle ranching took its toll on the trees over the last few decades but traditional slash and burn farmers would never, never cut this tree. Things changed drastically with the intrusion of mechanized farming in this part of the Amazon. It's logical that a soy bean or dry-land rice farmer doesn't want to see a tree or even a blade of grass in front of his combine machine. "Brazil nut tree? What's that? The law prohibits the destruction of the Brazil nut tree? I sure didn't know that! Nobody told me." It's reported that one soy farmer down the road from the Bosque pushed over 70 Brazil nut trees with his bulldozer. I believe it because one can look into the far horizon and not see one of these giant trees around. Some farmers and ranchers are in the know and they never cut or bulldoze the trees down. But, like the trees in the photograph, they more often than not die because of the fires. Some fall over from winds, which increase in speed because of the large open areas. Like the animals of the forest, we can say that the Brazil nut tree doesn't stand a chance of survival in the ever-expanding mechanized agriculture lands of the Amazon.

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