Invasive plants can impact biodiversity as well as the lives of native human populations. Natural ecosystems represent sources of natural resources essential for the subsistence and socio-cultural continuity of these social groups. Approximately 30,000 ha of Acacia mangium were planted for commercial purposes in savanna areas surrounding indigenous lands in Roraima State, Brazil, at the end of the 1990s. We examined the local ecological knowledge of indigenous Wapichana and Macuxi Amerindians, members of the Arawak and Carib linguistic families, respectively, concerning A. mangium Willdenow (Fabaceae) in a savanna ecosystem (“Lavrado”) to attempt to understand its propagation beyond the limits of the commercial plantations and contribute to mitigating its impacts on socio-ecological systems.
The present study was undertaken in the Moskow, São Domingos, and Malacacheta communities in the Moskow and Malacacheta Indigenous Lands (ILs) in the Serra da Lua region of Roraima State, in the northern Brazilian Amazon region. Interviews were conducted with a total of 94 indigenous individuals of both sexes, with ages between 18 and 76, and low levels of formal schooling, with an average time of permanence in the area of 21 years; some still spoke only their native languages. The interviews focused on their ecological knowledge of the invasive, non-native A. mangium and their uses of it.
The informants affirmed that A. mangium negatively impacted the local fauna and flora, making their subsistence more difficult and altering their daily routines. Among the problems cited were alterations of water quality (71.3%), negative impacts on crops (60.6%), negative impacts on the equilibrium of the local fauna (52.1%), increased farm labor requirements (41.5%), and restriction of access to indigenous lands (23.4%). There were no significant differences between the opinions of men and women, nor between community leaders and nonleaders. Most of the interviewees (89%) felt that A. mangium had no positive importance for the local economy and saw no future prospects of beneficial use.
The Wapichana and Macuxi informants felt that the invasion by A. mangium had caused negative effects on the natural environment and on community subsistence in the indigenous lands due to its rapid and unwanted propagation. The similarity between the opinions of men and women and between community leaders and nonleaders demonstrates the existence of knowledge that is well distributed among these communities and transmitted within their communities through social–cultural interactions.