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What is SUSTAIN doing in Madre de Dios and do we already have some results?

What is SUSTAIN?
SUSTAIN is a young project that explores models of sustainable Brazil-nut supply chains from Madre de Dios in Peru to the consumers in Switzerland. Why Brazil nuts? Well, basically for its importance for rain forest conservation and its economic potential for people working with brazil nuts.

Since the start of SUSTAIN in 2016, it has steadily grown by acquiring increasing numbers of collaborators. It is associated now with a research institute (IIAP), university (UNAMAD) and several NGO's.

Apart from this, a number of interns, field/research assistants and thesis students at bachelor's and master's level have been working within the framework of SUSTAIN - and several more will start within the upcoming months! All these studies will contribute to the creation of an innovative model which will be interesting for the Swiss market.

Genetics and Brazil nut reproductive ecology
A particularly close association started from the real beginning - or actually even from before the start of the project - with a PhD project at the same university that SUSTAIN is based at, ETH Zurich. The PhD project explores the genetic effects of forest degradation on the mating patterns of Brazil-nut populations in Madre de Dios. Thus, using genetic tools we will be able to see whether modern human activities have had an impact of the genetic diversity and gene flow of the studied populations. However, the approach grew bigger and it also converted into a forest enrichment project using local nurseries and aiming to see in what extent genetic resources are important for these kind of practices, of which the regional demand is apparently extensive.

Experimenting in nurseries!
During the first half of 2017, we collected around 12000 seeds within a scientific research scheme from concessions in different parts of Madre de Dios, and were able to plant around 8000 of them. The seeds are germinating and we are excited to see what the final rates will be and to know how many seedlings we will be able to plant back. With this data and with some of the described collaborations, we will have an understanding of costs and benefits of Brazil-nut forest enrichment. With all these approaches, we want to answer to questions like: how is it possible to enrich Brazil nut forests? What are the challenges and the solutions? Is it important to take into consideration where the seeds come from? Is the current human impact in the forest affecting the reproduction of Brazil nut stands?

What else...
This blog is aimed to serve as a communication platform to anyone out there interested in Sustain, Brazil nuts or any of our activities. Based on particular themes of our research, more are planned to come as blogs, newsletters and posts on social media. We'll keep it updated!

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