The role of fertile anthropogenic soils in the conservation of native and exotic agrobiodiversity in Amazonian homegardens.
Amazonian dark earths (ADE) are anthropogenic soils mostly created between 500 and 2500 years ago by pre-Columbian populations. ADE are currently used by local people for different agricultural and agroforestry systems. Because of their high fertility they may play an important role in the conservation of non-native agrobiodiversity. This study aimed to investigate the variation in richness and abundance of exotic and native species in homegardens along the ADE-background soil continuum. We conducted floristic inventories in 70 homegardens located in 7 riverside communities along the lower and middle Madeira River, Central Amazonia. Each species sampled was classified according to its origin: native Amazonian, American (from outside Amazonia) and non-American, and each individual was classified according to its form of establishment: cultivated or spontaneous. The floristic diversity was significantly related to soil fertility, texture and homegarden size. We found a positive relationship between soil fertility and richness of species and landraces. Homegardens on more fertile soils tended to have a higher richness and abundance of cultivated non-American species, as well as a higher richness and abundance of spontaneously established American species. Homegardens at the fertile end of the fertility gradient provided conditions for the establishment and growth of many species, especially exotic species, that are generally more nutrient-demanding than Amazonian species. Our results show that homegarden agroecosystems on ADE favour experimentation with the introduction of a wide range of species from various regions of the globe.