Invasive fires have become both more frequent and severe in tropical forest landscapes. Impacts have been largely understood in terms of carbon emissions, hectares of forest lost, species impacted and further consequences for ecological processes. Yet the rising flammability of tropical forests presents immediate and poorly understood implications for traditional populations. Traditional peoples, including the mixed-descent ribeirinhos of the Brazilian Amazon, integrate forest use and extraction in their daily lives, livelihoods and well-being, drawing heavily on indigenous lifeways. For instance through the collection of various species that provide nutritional diversity, contribute to family food security, offer medicinal properties, and those used in the construction of homes (e.g. palm thatch and timber) and transport (i.e. canoes) amongst others. The interlinked and place-based nature of traditional peoples and forests, means that these communities are also first in line when forests are degraded through extensive fires. Further, feedbacks between fire, extraction and the functional ecology of the species impacted, holds considerable implications for the future of forests and the various dependencies that are contingent on them. This study applied mixed methods including household questionnaires to solicit livelihood portfolio data, social perception-based data of species abundance and recovery following fire, geospatial data of fire prevalence and combined it with functional ecology insights to consider these dynamics and feedbacks. We collected household data in two time-steps, in 2010 (n156) across 12 communities, and revisited a sub-sample in two communities in 2019 (n16) living in two fire-affected sustainable use reserves in the Brazilian Amazon. We present our findings, consider their implications in the context of increasing fire prevalence, and reflect on the necessity of just and equitable governance to reduce fire prevalence.


fire, tropical forests, functional ecology, food security, traditional peoples, justice

Rachel Carmenta, Filipe Franca

Presentation within symposium:

S-14 Seeing Through the Smoke – fire as a catalyst of Amazonian tipping points

Fire in the larder: understanding the impacts of invasive fires on biodiversity and forest food for traditional communities