Project properties

Title The effect of forest degradation on the pollination, production and survival of Amazon nut trees
Group Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group
Project type thesis
Credits 27-33
Supervisor(s) M. Jansen (external, ETH Zurich)
Examiner(s) Prof. Dr. P.A. (Pieter) Zuidema
Contact info
Begin date 2017/12/15
End date
Description Thesis or internship
Start date is open, but some limitations apply to the start date depending on the subtopics described below.

Amazon nuts, commonly known as Brazil nuts, are an important product that is generally harvested from natural tree populations in many parts of the Bolivian, Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon rain forest. It provides income to many people in mostly rural areas, and therefore provides an important incentive for forest conservation. A large part of the production is exported to Europe and the USA. In all three Amazon nut producing countries it is prohibited by law to fell Amazon nut trees, but nevertheless current and future production of Amazon nuts is under threat, and one of the major threats is forest degradation. Currently Amazon nut trees occur in a gradient of degradation ranging from undisturbed primary forest, logging, areas where other non-timber forest products (NTFP) are extracted, and other type of concessions, to isolated trees in agricultural fields. Furthermore, harvest data suggests that nut production has been decreasing during the last years. Several studies suggest that degradation negatively impacts nut production and tree survival, but to what extent has not been quantified yet. Furthermore, the mechanisms by which nut production could be negatively influenced are not well understood. A possible explanation is that lower presence or lower activity of pollinators in degraded landscapes limit nut production. If this is the case, nut production could possibly be increased by applying pollinator augmentation treatments. Specific options for student projects are answering one of the following two questions:

1. What is the effect of forest degradation on Amazon nut tree survival?
2. Can pollinator population size and activity be increased by pollinator augmentation treatments?

Data for these student projects will be collected in the Madre de Dios region in Peru. All projects involve field work in several forests sites in the Amazon. Themes three and five (pollination) will potentially, but not necessarily, involve climbing of Amazon nut trees to observe pollinator communities. Students will be involved in the design of data collection schemes, collecting of data, and in data analysis. Furthermore, students will intensively collaborate with each other and the rest of the research team.
These student projects are part of a larger project (named SUSTAIN) of the Swiss university ETH Zurich and the international research centre CIFOR, that aims to identify the ecological, social and economic sustainability of Amazon nut supply chain from Madre de Dios, Peru, to Switzerland. Student projects will therefore directly contribute to this larger aim. More information about the larger project can be found on

Sustainable forest management/ Ecosystem services / Agroforestry/ America's/ Tropical zone
Used skills
Requirements REG-31806 Ecological Methods I and one of the following courses:
FEM-30306 Forest Ecology and Forest Management or
FEM-30806 Resource Dynamics and Sustainable Utilization