Reconstructing Amazonian Dark Earths: Ancient Technology as a Tool for Sustainable Management of Tropical Soils.
Guido Hofwegen van, Thom Kuyper, Joep Broek van den, and Gertjan Becx. Wageningen Univ, Building no 316, Dreijenplein 10, Wageningen, 6703HB, Netherlands
Two years after Wim Sombroek passed away; his legacy is still alive in Wageningen (the Netherlands). Wim Sombroek who can be considered as the founder of Amazonian Dark Earth research spent most of his career in Wageningen, where he was director of ISRIC. Wageningen wants to maintain its involvement in Terra Preta research. Not only because of the historical ties but also because human improved soils are common in many areas in the Netherlands. Consequently, much research has been undertaken on these soils at Wageningen UR. Wageningen University is starting an interdisciplinary joint research project with Latin American research institutions aiming at acquiring knowledge to reconstruct Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE) and to develop sustainable and productive agricultural methods. Integrating knowledge from soil chemistry, biology and micro-morphology; remote sensing, (geo)archeology, anthropology, and agronomy we intend to acquire a holistic insight in the complex pre-Columbian societies of the Amazon. Main research questions include (i) the sustainability of current ADE use with special attention to weed ecology and nutrient balances. (ii) To contribute to the understanding of the soil components and processes that shape the unique features of ADE and in particular the role of soil fauna. (iii) The ADE phenomenon has had a major impact on theories concerning the carrying capacity and resilience of the Amazonian rainforest. We plan to investigate the extent to which Terra Preta can support an increased carrying capacity of various land use functions of the Amazon basin.