Forest Garden Design Manual

How to design forest gardens 
... we can learn from the most ancient examples available to us,
like the Amazon Rainforest, 
as well as from lots of smaller & more modern designs ...

Ancient peoples shaped the Amazon rainforest

Article from

Trees domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples remain more common in forests near ancient settlements

March 2, 2017
Field Museum
We often think of the Amazon rainforest as a vast expanse of nature untouched by humans. But a new study suggests that's not true -- in fact, today's rainforest is shaped by trees that were cultivated by indigenous peoples thousands of years ago.
Amazon rainforest in Tambopata reserve, Peru (stock image)
Credit: © salparadis / Fotolia

We often think of the Amazon rainforest as a vast expanse of nature untouched by humans. But a new study in Science suggests that's not true -- in fact, today's rainforest is shaped by trees that were cultivated by indigenous peoples thousands of years ago.

"Some of the tree species that are abundant in Amazonian forests today, like cacao, açaí, and Brazil nut, are probably common because they were planted by people who lived there long before the arrival of European colonists," says Nigel Pitman, the Mellon Senior Conservation Ecologist at Chicago's Field Museum and a co-author of the study.

The team made the discovery by overlaying data from more than 1,000 forest surveys on a map of more than 3,000 archaeological sites across the Amazon. By comparing forest composition at varying distances from archaeological sites, the analysis generated the first Amazon-wide picture of how pre-Columbian peoples influenced Amazonian biodiversity. The study focused on 85 tree species known to have been domesticated by Amazonian peoples for food, shelter, or other uses over the last several thousand years. The researchers found that throughout the Amazon basin, these species were five times more likely to be common in mature upland forests than non-domesticated species. In some parts of the basin, domesticated species were found to be both more common and more diverse in forests closer to archaeological sites.

"That's even the case for some really remote, mature forests that we'd typically assumed to be pristine and undisturbed," says Pitman.

The finding promises to heat up a long-simmering debate among scientists about how thousands of years of human settlement in the Amazon basin have influenced modern-day patterns of Amazonian biodiversity. The immense size of Amazonian forests has historically hampered archaeological research and given the impression of an untouched landscape, but a large number of new archaeological sites have been discovered in recent years.

The team, made up by hundreds of ecologists and social scientists worldwide, was led by Carolina Levis, a PhD student at Brazil's National Institute for Amazonian Research and Wagenigen University and Research in the Netherlands. "For many years, ecological studies ignored the influence of pre-Columbian peoples on the forests we see today. We found that a quarter of these domesticated tree species are widely distributed in the basin and dominate large expanses of forest. These species are vital for the livelihood and economy of Amazonian peoples and indicate that the Amazonian flora is in part a surviving heritage of its former inhabitants," says Levis.

The study also pinpointed regions of the Amazon that today concentrate especially high diversities and large populations of domesticated species. Southwestern Amazonia, where large stands of Brazil nut trees remain a foundation of local residents' livelihoods, is one such example. Other regions showed fewer domesticated species, or a weaker relationship between domesticated species and archeological sites, highlighting the need for more research on the history of Amazonian settlement. The degree to which the recent history of Amazonian settlement has affected the distribution and abundance of domesticated species in the Amazon also remains to be studied.

While the small number of domesticated species used in the study was sufficient to reveal a strong human signal in modern forests, the authors point out that the signal may be even stronger than they documented, since hundreds of other Amazonian tree species were used by pre-Colombian peoples and also deserve study. Untangling the complex interplay of historical, environmental, and ecological factors structuring the 16,000-species Amazonian tree flora remains a focus of the team's work.

"The questions are pressing," says Pitman, "since both types of pre-Columbian heritage -- archeological sites and the forests that surround them -- are at risk from road-building, mining, and other threats to the Amazon."

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Journal Reference:

  1. C. Levis, F. R. C. Costa, F. Bongers, M. Peña-Claros, C. R. Clement, A. B. Junqueira, E. G. Neves, E. K. Tamanaha, F. O. G. Figueiredo, R. P. Salomão, C. V. Castilho, W. E. Magnusson, O. L. Phillips, J. E. Guevara, D. Sabatier, J.-F. Molino, D. Cárdenas López, A. M. Mendoza, N. C. A. Pitman, A. Duque, P. Núñez Vargas, C. E. Zartman, R. Vasquez, A. Andrade, J. L. Camargo, T. R. Feldpausch, S. G. W. Laurance, W. F. Laurance, T. J. Killeen, H. E. Mendonça Nascimento, J. C. Montero, B. Mostacedo, I. L. Amaral, I. C. Guimarães Vieira, R. Brienen, H. Castellanos, J. Terborgh, M. de Jesus Veiga Carim, J. R. da Silva Guimarães, L. de Souza Coelho, F. D. de Almeida Matos, F. Wittmann, H. F. Mogollón, G. Damasco, N. Dávila, R. García-Villacorta, E. N. H. Coronado, T. Emilio, D. de Andrade Lima Filho, J. Schietti, P. Souza, N. Targhetta, J. A. Comiskey, B. S. Marimon, B.-H. Marimon, D. Neill, A. Alonso, L. Arroyo, F. A. Carvalho, F. C. de Souza, F. Dallmeier, M. P. Pansonato, J. F. Duivenvoorden, P. V. A. Fine, P. R. Stevenson, A. Araujo-Murakami, G. A. Aymard C., C. Baraloto, D. D. do Amaral, J. Engel, T. W. Henkel, P. Maas, P. Petronelli, J. D. Cardenas Revilla, J. Stropp, D. Daly, R. Gribel, M. Ríos Paredes, M. Silveira, R. Thomas-Caesar, T. R. Baker, N. F. da Silva, L. V. Ferreira, C. A. Peres, M. R. Silman, C. Cerón, F. C. Valverde, A. Di Fiore, E. M. Jimenez, M. C. Peñuela Mora, M. Toledo, E. M. Barbosa, L. C. de Matos Bonates, N. C. Arboleda, E. de Sousa Farias, A. Fuentes, J.-L. Guillaumet, P. Møller Jørgensen, Y. Malhi, I. P. de Andrade Miranda, J. F. Phillips, A. Prieto, A. Rudas, A. R. Ruschel, N. Silva, P. von Hildebrand, V. A. Vos, E. L. Zent, S. Zent, B. B. L. Cintra, M. T. Nascimento, A. A. Oliveira, H. Ramirez-Angulo, J. F. Ramos, G. Rivas, J. Schöngart, R. Sierra, M. Tirado, G. van der Heijden, E. V. Torre, O. Wang, K. R. Young, C. Baider, A. Cano, W. Farfan-Rios, C. Ferreira, B. Hoffman, C. Mendoza, I. Mesones, A. Torres-Lezama, M. N. U. Medina, T. R. van Andel, D. Villarroel, R. Zagt, M. N. Alexiades, H. Balslev, K. Garcia-Cabrera, T. Gonzales, L. Hernandez, I. Huamantupa-Chuquimaco, A. G. Manzatto, W. Milliken, W. P. Cuenca, S. Pansini, D. Pauletto, F. R. Arevalo, N. F. Costa Reis, A. F. Sampaio, L. E. Urrego Giraldo, E. H. Valderrama Sandoval, L. Valenzuela Gamarra, C. I. A. Vela, H. ter Steege. Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest compositionScience, 2017; 355 (6328): 925 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal0157

Forest Gardens

Creating a Permaculture Food Forest - Josh Robinson

A food forest is a perennial polyculture of multi-purposed plants designed to not only produce lots of food, but provide many other services including pollination, pest control, fertility, mulch, and much more. This goes way beyond companion planting. Food forests are designed to be highly productive with the least amount of labor. This slideshow will explain how to create a sustainable orchard that is patterned after nature

This presentation was given by Josh Robinson on April 25, 2012 at the San Diego CRFG chapter meeting. For more info about our chapter and CRFG visit:

Please visit:  &

Edible Forest Gardens

"Come among the unsown grasses bearing richly,
the oaks heavy with acorns, the sweet roots in unplowed earth . . ."

Ursula K. LeGuin, Always Coming Home

Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. 

Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy, and if you look carefully you can see fruits swelling on many branches — pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, chestnuts. 

The shrubs that fill the gaps in the canopy bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts and other lesser known fruits, flowers and nuts at different times of the year.


A diverse assemblage of native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly covers the ground. 

You use many of these plants for food or medicine, while others attract beneficial insects, birds and butterflies, act as soil builders or simply help keep out weeds. 

Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage — hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. 

In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. 

These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage, their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoying the radiant warmth from the sky.

Forests PC Pamphlet

Forests in Permaculture Pamphlet

(thanks to a Permaculture Institute)

Vídeo de YouTube

The late Robert Hart, one of the early pioneers on forest gardening in the UK, explains the various layers of his garden.

Vídeo de YouTube

If videos disappear search for more here

Vídeo de YouTube


Caring For



Fruit Trees

Nut Trees

Nitrogen Fixing

See Legumes


There is a pilot of this in spanish here

There's a dialogue related to this page in the Integral Permaculture FB group (click icon to go there)

There's a dialogue in our FB group about this subject (click icon to go there)

Stella Ne,
2 Oct 2011, 06:04