Diversity of the Land Resources in the Amazonian State of Rondônia, Brazil
Conflicting opinions are recorded in the literature concerning the suitability of Amazon lands for sustainable agriculture following deforestation. This article has been written to shed light on this question by summarizing climate, landform, soil and vegetation features from the findings of a land resource study of the Brazilian state of Rondônia in south-west Amazonia. The work, which followed the World Soils and Terrain Digital Database (SOTER) methodology, was financed by the World Bank. During the course of the survey special emphasis was given to studying soils; 2914 profiles were analyzed and recorded. The study identified a complex pattern of land units with clear differences in climate, landform, soils and native vegetation. Forested areas mosaic with lesser areas of natural savannas. The latter occur on both poorly-drained and well-drained, albeit nutrient deficient sandy soils. The tallest and most vigorous forests or their remnants were seen growing on well-drained soils formed from nutrient-rich parent materials. Many of these soils could, or are being used for productive agriculture. Soils developed on nutrient-poor parent materials support forests that are significantly lower in height, and would require large lime and fertilizer inputs for agriculture. Low forests with high palm populations and minor areas of wet land savannas cover the poorly drained soils. It is evident that forest clearing in the past was indiscriminant; this cannot be condoned. The diversity of land conditions found throughout Rondônia would suggest that many past studies in the Amazon have simply been too broad to identify significant soil differences.