Leonardo Kumagai

Friday October 02, 2015



Leonardo Kumagai

GESA 2014  |  Brazil  |  Ethnobotanical Researcher


I believe that ethnobotany, ecology and genetics are distinguished tools to understand the use of natural resources as well as their conservation, which leads us to better management of them.

Leonardo Kumagai - 0I am part of a multi-disciplinary study group based in Manaus, led by Dr. Charles Clement. In Amazonas, most human populations are located along the major and minor rivers, where they have modified and continue to modify their landscapes. These modifications were once considered to be small scale, when compared with the ones done nowadays, but still were intense enough that their footprints can still be seen in the forest today. The main difference between their uses of the forest and modern society’s uses is that pre-Colombian peoples rarely eliminated the forests as modern society generally does.

I work since 2006 with human and plant ecology, especially with use of natural resources such as fruits and other non-timber forest products.

I started my ethnobotany journey at Universidade Federal do Paraná (Curitiba, Brasil) when Dra. Raquel Negrelle showed me the other side of the coin when biologists work side by side, as partners, with people who live around/inside conservationist interest areas.

In my Master’s project with Dra. Natalia Hanazaki as my supervisor at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Florianópolis, Brasil), I worked with ethnobotany and population structure of a useful palm tree fruit (Butia catarinensis Noblick & Lorenzi). During the study of relationships of the community with its natural resources, I realized how important these local communities are for the in situ and on farm conservation of genetic resources.

Then I moved to Manaus to work with Dr. Charles Clement, where my doctoral research proposal goes beyond ethnobotanical information and adds a molecular dimension in order to study the origin and genetic diversity of a fruit called biribá, Annona mucosa Jacq. (Annonaceae). My objectives are to find the area(s) of the origin of domestication of biribá and the routes of its dispersal by pre-Columbian peoples in Amazonia; to identify cultural practices of use and management that may have influenced this distribution; and to understand the cultural factors that explain how a plant that once was important enough to be selected and domesticated now has a reduced number of cultivated individuals.

Working with minor native crops, such as biribá, shows that family scale use of natural resources helps to increase and maintain biodiversity at the continental level, especially in the diverse ecosystems that we have in the Amazonian context.


Leonardo Kumagai - 1

One of the few owners of a biribá tree in the Maguary community in the National Forest of Tapajós, Amazonia, Brasil. Biribá, Annona mucosa Jacq. is a domesticated native pre-Colombian minor crop that has been abandoned by the contemporary white man.

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Handcrafting with natural rubber in the Jamaraquá community in National Forest of Tapajós, Amazonia, Brasil.

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Interviewing biribá holders at Acará Lagoon in middle Madeira River, Amazonia, Brasil.

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Interviewing a biribá holder at Acará Lagoon middle Madeira River, Amazonia, Brasil.

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Collecting leaves and a biribá fruit, Amazonia, Brasil.

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Inside a traditional caboclo´s home in lower Negro river, Amazonia, Brasil.

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An area in Ribanceira, Imbituba, Southern Brasil; a moisaic of butiazais, slash and fallow plantation.

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A traditional farmer holding a bunch of Butia catarinensis Noblick & Lorenzi fruits at Rural Community Association of Imbituba (Associação Comunitária Rural de Imbituba – ACORDI), in Southern Brasil. Butia trees (Butia catarinensis Noblick & Lorenzi) are endemic to the Atlantic Rainforest´s Restinga.

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Cachaça de butiá, traditional use of the Butia catarinensis Noblick & Lorenzi fruits.

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Cataia tree Pimenta pseudocaryophyllus (myrtaceae) in Mata Atlântica, Barra do Ararapira, National Park of Superagui, Southern Brasil.

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Cachaça made with Cataia’s leaves, in Association of Caraia Women Producers, Barra do Ararapira, National Park of Superagui, Southern Brasil.

Leonardo Kumagai - 12

Association of Cataia Women Producers, Barra do Ararapira, National Park of Superagui, Southern Brasil.

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