Human Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 917–922 | Cite as

Optimal Foraging Theory and Medicinal Bark Extraction in Northeastern Brazil

  • Ivanilda Soares Feitosa
  • Júlio Marcelino Monteiro
  • Elcida Lima Araújo
  • Priscila F. M. Lopes
  • Ulysses Paulino AlbuquerqueEmail author


Human populations often make decisions about how to obtain the resources they need using a cost/benefit ratio (see Begossi 1992; Lopes et al.2011; Lopes and Begossi 2011; Soldati and Albuquerque 2012; Alves et al. 2017; Lins Neto and Albuquerque 2018) that can be harmful to conservation efforts even if they have a broad understanding of the environment (Lins Neto et al.2010; Feitosa et al.2014). In fact, in many cases in-depth knowledge of extractors regarding natural resources can lead to greater exploitation and to competition among extractors (Ferreira Júnior et al.2012; Feitosa et al.2014).

Thus, an understanding of why people over-exploit resources they need for their survival is fundamental to designing appropriate management strategies. Optimal foraging theory (OFT) proposes that individuals will maximize their gains, whether energetic or economic, when extracting subsistence resources in light of the costs they incur accessing, handling, and processing of them...


Stem bark extraction Ethnobiology Human behavior Optimization Brazilian savannah Floresta Nacional do Araripe Optimal foraging theory 



The authors thank ICMBio-Ceará, the authorization granted to us for the effectuation of the study and the logistics that facilitated our work. We are grateful to the guards of IBAMA in people, Rivaldo, Luiz, Edvan, Thiago, and Gilmário, whose support and availability always helped. We also thank the residents of the community Horizonte who voluntarily agreed to participate in our study, especially the person of Edilma who spared no efforts to develop this work. We acknowledge CNPq for the productivity grant awarded to ELA, PFML and UPA and CAPES for the scholarship granted to ISF. We also thank Mr. Antônio Nunes for the assistance provided in the field during the data collection. This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001.


Financial support from FACEPE (Foundation for Support of Science and Technology) to the Project Núcleo de Pesquisa em Ecologia, conservação e Potencial de Uso de Recursos Biológicos no Semiárido do Nordeste do Brasil (Center for Research in Ecology, Conservation and Potential Use of Biological Resources in the Semi-Arid Region of Northeastern Brazil-APQ-1264-2.05/10).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

The authors declare that the information provided by the informants were not disclosed.

Ethical and Legal Considerations

The project was submitted to the ethics committee of the Universidade de Pernambuco and approved under number CAAE-0270.0.172.000–11 by the CEP of the Center for Health Sciences of the Federal University of Pernambuco. All informants were requested to sign the free and informed consent form TCLE (Resolution No. 466, of 12/12/2012).

Subsequently, authorization was requested from the “Sistema de Autorização e Informação em Biodiversidade-SISBio” (38777–1), the system responsible for issuing authorizations for research in administered conservation units, by the “Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade-ICMBio”.


  1. Alves, A. S. A., Nascimento, A. L. B., Albuquerque, U. P., and Castro, C. C. (2017). Optimal Foraging Theory: Perspectives on the Strategies of Itinerant Beekeepers in Semiarid Northeast Brazil. Human Ecology 45: 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ando, M., Yokota, H. O., and Shibata, E. (2003). Bark stripping preference of sika deer, Cervus nippon, in terms of bark chemical contents. Forest Ecology and Management 177: 323–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ayres, M., Ayres Júnior, M., Ayres, D. L., and Santos, A. A. S. (2007). BioEstat 5.0: Aplicações estatísticas nas áreas das ciências biológicas e médicas, Pará Sociedade Civil Mamirauá, Belém.Google Scholar
  4. Begossi, A. (1992). The Use of Optimal Foraging Theory in the Understanding of Fishing Strategies: A Case from Sepetiba Bay (Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil). Human Ecology 20: 463–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boer, W. F., and Prins, H. H. T. (1989). Decisions of Cattle Herdsmen in Burkina Faso and Optimal Foraging Models. Human Ecology 17: 445–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borges Filho, H. C., and Felfili, J. M. (2003). Avaliação dos níveis de extrativismo da casca de barbatimão [Stryphnodendron adstringens (Mart.) Coville] no Distrito Federal, Brasil. Revista Árvore 27: 735–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carvalho, F. A., Jacobson, T. K. B., Costa, A. F., Santos, A. A. B., and Hay, J. D. V. (2009). Estrutura e distribuição espacial do Barbatimão (Stryphnodendron polyphyllum) em uma área de cerrado no sudeste de Goiás. Revista Tropica – Ciências Agrárias e Biológicas 3(1): 14–19.Google Scholar
  8. Castro, A. H. F., Paiva, R., Alvarenga, A. A., and Vitor, S. M. M. (2009). Calogênese e teores de fenóis e taninos totais em barbatimão [Stryphnodendron adstrigens (Mart.) Coville]. Ciência Agrotecnica 33(2): 385–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Costa, V. D. (1998). Conhecendo o Araripe: recursos hídricos. In: Projeto de proteção ambiental e desenvolvimento sustentável da APA-Chapada do Araripe e da Biorregião do Araripe, MMA/FUNDETEC 3, Crato.Google Scholar
  10. Chaves, F. G., and Alves, M. A. (2010). Teoria do forrageamento ótimo: premissas e críticas em estudos com aves. Oecologia Australis 14: 369–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Estomba, D., Ladio, A., and Lozada, M. (2006). Medicinal wild plant knowledge and gathering patterns in a Mapuche community from North-western Patagonia. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 103: 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fehr, E., and Fischblacher, U. (2004). Social norms and human cooperation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8(4): 185–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Feitosa, I. S., Albuquerque, U. P., and Monteiro, J. M. (2014). Knowledge and extractivism of Stryphnodendron rotundifolium Mart. in a local community of the Brazilian Savanna, Northeastern Brazil. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 10: 64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Feitosa, I. S., Sobral, A., Monteiro, J. M., Araújo, E. L., and Albuquerque, U. P. (2017). Impact of collection on bark regeneration from Stryphnodendron rotundifolium Mart. in northeastern Brazil. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 189 (5): 234.Google Scholar
  15. Ferreira Júnior, W. S., Siqueira, C. F. Q., and Albuquerque, U. P. (2012). Plant Stem Bark Extractivism in the Northeast Semiarid Region of Brazil: A New Aport to Utilitarian Redundancy Model. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012: 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Giraldeau, L. A., and Dubois, F. (2008). Social Foraging and Study of Exploitative Behavior. Advances in the Study Behavior 38: 59–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hill, K. (1998). Macronutrient Modifications of Optimal Foraging Theory: An Approach Using Indifference Curves Applied to Some Modern Foragers. Human Ecology 16: 157–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA). (2005). Plano de Manejo da Floresta Nacional do Araripe. Crato, Ceará.Google Scholar
  19. Ladio, A. H., and Lozada, M. (2003). Comparison of wild edible plant diversity and foraging strategies in two aboriginal communities of northwestern Patagonia. Biodiversity and Conservation 12: 937–951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lima, M. F. (1983). Mapeamento e demarcação da floresta nacional do Araripe, IBDF/FCPC/UFC, Fortaleza.Google Scholar
  21. Lins Neto, E. M. F., Peroni, N., and Albuquerque, U. P. (2010). Traditional Knowledge and Management of Spondias tuberosa Arruda (Umbu) (Anacardiaceae) an endemic species from the Semi-Arid Region of Northeast Brazil. Economic Botany 64: 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lins Neto, E. M. F., and Albuquerque, U. P. (2018). Theories of Niche Construction and Optimal Foraging: weaknesses and virtues in understanding the early stages of domestication. Ethnobiology and Conservation 7: 7.Google Scholar
  23. Lopes, P. F. M., and Begossi, A. (2011). Decision-making processes by small-scale fishermen on the southeast coast of Brazil. Fisheries Management and Ecology 18: 400–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lopes, P. F. M., Clauzet, M., Hanazaki, N., Ramires, M., Silvano, R. A. M., and Begossi, A. (2011). Foraging Behaviour of Brazilian Riverine and Coastal Fishers: How much is explained by the optimal foraging theory? Conservation and Society 9: 236–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lozano, A., Araujo, E. L., Medeiros, M. F. T., and Albuquerque, U. P. (2014). The apparency hypothesis applied to a local pharmacopoeia in the Brazilian northeast. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 10: 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ludvico, L. R., Bennet, I. M., and Beckerman, S. (1991). Risk Sensitive Foraging Behavior Among the Bari. Human Ecology 19: 509–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. MacArthur, R. H., and Pianka, E. R. (1966). On optimal use of a patchy environment. American Naturalist 100: 603–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Macedo, F. M., Martins, G. T., Rodrigues, C. G., and Oliveira, D. A. (2007). Triagem fitoquímica do Barbatimão [Stryphnodendron adstrigens (Mart) Coville]. Revista Brasileira de Biociências 5: 1166–1168.Google Scholar
  29. Mithen, S. J. (1999). Modeling Hunter-Gatherer Decision Making: Complementing Optimal Foraging Theory. Human Ecology 17: 59–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Oliveira, L. E. C., and Begossi, A. (2011). Last Trip Return Rate Influence Patch Choice Decisions of Small-Scale Shrimp Trawlers: Optimal Foraging in São Francisco, Coastal Brazil. Human Ecology 39: 323–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Orians, G. H., and Pearson, E. (1979). On the theory of central place foraging. In: Analysis of ecological systems (eds. Honors, DJ, GR. Stairs and R.D. Mitchell). 155–177. Columbus: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Pyke, G. H., Pulliam, H. R., and Charnov, E. L. (1977). Optimal foraging: A selective review of theory and test. The Quarterly Review of Biology 52: 137–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rode, C., Cosmides, L., Hell, W., and Tooby, J. (1999). When and why do people avoid unknown probabilities in decisions under uncertainty? Testing some predictions from optimal foraging theory? Cognition 72: 269–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sih, A. (1980). Optimal behavior: Can foragers Balance two conflicting demands? Science 210: 1041–1043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Soldati, G. T., and Albuquerque, U. P. (2012). A New application for the optimal foraging theory: The extraction of medicinal plants. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012: 1–10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Biociências- Departamento de Botânica, Laboratório de Ecologia e Evolução de Sistemas SocioecológicosUniversidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE)RecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Federal do Piauí (UFPI)FlorianoBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Biologia, Laboratório de Ecologia Vegetal de Ecossistemas NaturaisUniversidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco (UFRPE)RecifeBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN)NatalBrazil

Personalised recommendations