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Eighty-four per cent of all Amazonian arboreal plant individuals are useful to humans

Cite this dataset

Coelho, Sara D. et al. (2022). Eighty-four per cent of all Amazonian arboreal plant individuals are useful to humans [Dataset]. Dryad.


Plants have been used in Amazonian forests for millennia and some of these plants are disproportionally abundant (hyperdominant). At local scales, people generally use the most abundant plants, which may be abundant as the result of management of indigenous peoples and local communities. However, it is unknown whether plant use is also associated with abundance at larger scales. We used the population sizes of 4,454 arboreal species (trees and palms) estimated from 1946 forest plots and compiled information about uses from 29 Amazonian ethnobotany books and articles published between 1926 and 2013 to investigate the relationship between species usefulness and their population sizes, and how this relationship is influenced by the degree of domestication of arboreal species across Amazonia. We found that half of the arboreal species (2,253) are useful to humans, which represents 84% of the estimated individuals in Amazonian forests. Useful species have mean populations sizes six times larger than non-useful species, and their abundance is related with the probability of usefulness. Incipiently domesticated species are the most abundant. Population size was weakly related to specific uses, but strongly related with the multiplicity of uses. This study highlights the enormous usefulness of Amazonian arboreal species for local peoples. Our findings support the hypothesis that the most abundant plant species have a greater chance to be useful at both local and larger scales, and suggest that although people use the most abundant plants, indigenous people and local communities have contributed to plant abundance through long-term management.

Usage notes

Trees and palms uses

This dataset contains information about the uses of tree and palm species in Amazonian forests. See Metadata file for explanation of the data contained in each column.