Department of Biology

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Henrik Balslev

Palm harvest impacts in north-western South America.

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Tropical forests harbor thousands of useful plants that are harvested and used in subsistence economies or traded in local, regional or international markets. The effect on the ecosystem is little known, and the forests resilience is badly understood. Palms are the most useful group of plants in tropical American forests. This paper introduces a cross-disciplinary study of the effects of harvesting palm products from the tropical forests in north-western South America. The size of the resource is estimated through palm community studies in the different forest formations that determines the number of species and individuals of all palm species. The genetic structure of useful palm species is studied to determine how much harvesting of the species contributes to genetic erosion of its populations, and whether extraction can be made without harm. Almost all palm species are used in rural communities for subsistence purposes Quantitative ethno-botanical research in different forest types have identified thousands of different ways of using palms for food, construction, tool-making, etc. Although most palms are used by the person harvesting them, many are sold on local markets as fruits, fiber, tools, construction materials etc., and a few have reached larger markets, including international markets. Palm populations are managed in various ways of which some are sustainable and others are destructive. National level mechanisms that governs extraction, trade and commercialization of palm products, are used to identify positive and negative policies in relation to resilience of ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBotanical Review
Pages (from-to)370–280
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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