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Tropentag, September 20 - 22, 2017 in Bonn

"Future Agriculture: Social-ecological transitions and bio-cultural shifts"

The Use of Pau-Brasil (Paubrasilia echinata Lam.) for Making Violin Bows: A Social-Ecological System Analysis Linking Environment and Art

Silke Lichtenberg1, Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald2, Juan Antonio Reyes-Ag├╝ero3, Udo Nehren1

1Cologne University of Applied Sciences (CUAS), Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT), Germany
2Institute for Scientific and Technological Research of San Luis Potosi (IPICYT), Brazil
3Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí (UASLP), Brazil


Paubrasilia echinata Lam. from the legume family Fabacea, in Portuguese known as pau-brasil, is the national tree of Brazil. Its precious wood is used worldwide as raw material for violin bows. For professional musicians, no alternative wood seems to meet the high-quality standards of pau-brasil. Due to the historical and current overexploitation of pau-brasil in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, this species is highly endangered. The dependence of traditional manufacturing of bows for violins on the threatened species of pau-brasil and an increasing mass production of bows have resulted in a challenging conflict. Raw material scarcity, unequal access to the raw material and different legislative regulations on the local, regional and global scales are main aspects of the problem. This situation has led to cross-arching challenges in the biophysical (decline of natural populations of P. echinata) and socioeconomic dimensions (conservation, management, socio-political organization associated with an increasing market of pau-brasil wood). Thus, it represents a complex problem on local, regional and global scales. Therefore, the analysis of this problem requires a comprehensive framework of a complex system, in a social-ecological system's (SES) context. In the case of a continuous use of pau-brasil in the production of violin bows, it is pertinent to identify and analyze the role of key actors and factors that contribute to the dynamics of this particular SES, to identify both possible system states and their resilience and scenarios that put pau-brasil and its use in bow making potentially at risk on the long-term. Hence, the current study includes a temporal analysis of the socioeconomic, political, ecological and legislative backgrounds and drivers, which allowed us to understand the complexity of the problem more precisely.

Keywords: Pau-brasil, Paubrasilia echinata, social-ecological system, violin bows

Contact Address: Silke Lichtenberg, Cologne University of Applied Sciences (CUAS), Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT), Betzdorfer Straße 2, 50679 Köln, Germany, e-mail: silke.lichtenberg@gmail.com

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