Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fragility of the Amazon

"For his dissertation he and a partner had registered all of the higher plants found in a hectare of jungle. The number was enormous. But what was most interesting to me was that for many of the plants there was only one example in that hectare. That, to me, explained the frailty of the Amazon more than anything else could. If, for instance, we had to walk nearly an hour to reach a Banisteriopsis caapi - ayahuasca - vine, then it was probably the only example of that vine for a couple of miles in any direction. Imagine if instead of an ayahuasca vine, that was a particular type of fruit-bearing tree whose fruit was the food of a particular species of monkey. If someone cut that tree down, that monkey would have no reason to enter those several square miles any longer, and would change its feeding route. In turn, the insects that fed on the waste produced by that monkey would no longer be found there, nor would the animals that depended on those insects for food. And if that particular tree only occurred any three miles for some reason, and if each were cut down over a 20-mile area, there would probably be no seeds dropped by those monkeys to ever propagate that tree in that area again. So the ants that fed off its bark, the monkey that its fruit, the insects that ate the droppings, the animal that ate the insects, and so forth, would all be seriously affected." (Peter Gorman, Ayahuasca in My Blood, 160-161)

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