Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jane M. Read


Amazonia, Amerindians, Ecosystem services, Guyana, Multiple-use Plants, Traditional Knowledge

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences | Geography


This dissertation examines the multiplicity of uses associated with tree and palm species of the Rupununi, Southern Guyana and the factors associated with their distribution. As tropical forests continue to decline the most significant response has been to understand the implications for the carbon cycle, with the impacts on forest dwelling peoples and wildlife, inadequately addressed. Multiple-use plants, individual species which at their most critical level provide food for wildlife, non-timber forest products and are commercially logged, provide a suitable lens for appreciating additional ecosystem services that may be compromised as tropical forests decline. I completed a plant inventory in the Rupununi and drew on the traditional knowledge of Amerindians to define multiple-use plants, describe their multiplicity of uses, describe vegetation types and assess multiple-use species distribution relative to land tenure classes and herbivores. I found four classes of multiple-use plants: wildlife food and commercial timber; commercial timber and traditional uses; wildlife food and traditional uses; and, wildlife food, commercial timber and traditional uses, each representing a unique dimension of ecosystem services such plants provide. A map created with descriptions of vegetation from Amerindian hunters showed that multiple-use plants are distributed in forest types that are critical for Amerindian livelihood activities. Further, as policies towards the extraction or protection of plant species are dictated by land tenure holdings, my assessments showed that strategies aimed at sustaining ecosystem services provided by multiple-use plants must consider the ideals for resource management within tenure classes. As expected, the distribution of a key disperser of multiple-use plants fruits and seeds - spider monkeys (Ateles paniscus), was closely related to the distribution of their food sources. My results show that land-use change impacting multiple-use plants will have implications for wildlife, and as a consequence traditional activities of forest dwelling peoples.


Open Access