Was the Amazon's "Dark Earth" Created on Purpose?


| LAST UPDATE 01/08/2023

By Daria Appleby
Indigenous People Dark Soil Farming
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According to ScienceNews, it is now widely believed that Indigenous people of the Amazon intentionally created 'The Dark Earth.' While they have been producing fertile soil, for farming purposes, for thousands of years, there could be a separate industry where the soil is being produced for themselves, "darker in soil and richer in carbon." Here's a closer look.

Researchers have recently investigated further into the ethnic group. According to WorldBank, they are "distinct social and cultural groups that share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live, occupy or from which they have been displaced." Paul Baker, a geochemist at Duke University exterior of the research group, argues the fact that the Kuikuro people continue to produce the same soil today as they did thousands of years ago is a "pretty strong argument." No matter which era we are in, it seems they're refusing to stop the production process. That being said, there is speculation over the idea that "massive quantities" of this soil are being stored somewhere. Specifically, this could contribute to fighting climate change in the future, considering the amount of carbon in the soil.

Indigenous People Amazon Dark Earth
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When taking a look at the Amazon's soil which is being produced, it is "poor in nutrients" like many other tropical soils." So, the constant production of soil is preventing complex societies from becoming advanced in their planting and livestock practices. While this ethnic group has technically been shaping our society for years, who knows what is being hidden from the world outside of theirs? Today, most scientists agree that the dark soil surrounding their archaeological sites was used to grow healthy and sustainable crops, holding back from sharing any excess and useful carbon. When the interviews of the Kuikuro people took place in 2018, they found, "Kuikuro villagers actively make dark earth - eegepe in Kuikuro - using ash, food scraps and controlled burns." Kanu Kuikuro explains, "When you plant where there is no eegepe, the soil is weak... That is why we throw the ash, manioc peelings, and manioc pulp." When soil samples were collected from Kuikuro villages and archaeological sites in Brazil's Xingu River basin, "striking similarities" were found in the dark earth soil from ancient as well as today's sites. Hence, "dark earth holds twice the amount of carbon as surrounding soils on average."

Figuring out how much carbon is actually stored in the Amazon could help improve climate simulations. The research highlights how the developing farming techniques are maintaining a sustainable farming environment. Hence, the more dark earth being made could retrospectively "be a method of mitigating climate change while supporting agriculture in the tropics."

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