Main content area

Long-term enrichment with the camedor palm (Chamaedorea elegans Mart.) improved forest cover in an anthropogenic tropical landscape

Lascurain-Rangel, Maite, Rodríguez-Rivas, Guillermo, Antonio Gómez-Díaz, Jorge, Alvarez-Palacios, José Luis, Benitez-Badillo, Griselda, López-Binnquist, Citlalli, Dávalos-Sotelo, Raymundo, López-Acosta, Juan Carlos
Forest ecology and management 2019 v.450 pp. 117499
Chamaedorea elegans, canopy, commercialization, cultivars, ecosystem services, financial economics, interviews, land use change, landscapes, leaves, nontimber forest products, normalized difference vegetation index, old-growth forests, secondary forests, soil, species richness, surveys, trees, understory, vegetation cover, Mexico
The use of non-timber forest products forms part of the strategy contributing to the well-being of populations near forest areas. Chamaedorea is one of the most important palm genera that is globally commercialized profitably for its attractive foliage used in floral decorations. In our study area located in the central region of Veracruz, Mexico we identified changes in tree cover between 1973 and 2017 using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). We conducted plant surveys to identify tree species richness associated with the cultivation of C. elegans. We conducted semi-structured interviews with local palm producers to understand their perceptions regarding changes in tree cover in the study area and its association with the presence of the camedor palm. Soil cover patterns and vegetation index signatures indicated an increase in the forested area from 1973 to 2017 (after more than 43 years), with a 69% gain in secondary vegetation coverage with low NDVI values. This increase is associated with the cultivation of palm, since arboreal cover had previously been dominated by species traditionally used as shade for camedor cultivation. Tree diameters at breast height (DBH) were low, indicating young secondary forests with low recruitment and diversity in the understory suggestive of simplified species assemblages; most of the associated species were long-living pioneers and typical of the secondary forest favored by the palm producers. Producers mentioned they did not remove coffee because it is their main means of subsistence, and in combination with the palm, there is greater economic benefit. They also confirmed an increase in forest cover owing to the introduction of palm cultivars in the areas north and south of the study area. This was confirmed with the NDVI results, which detected the same spatial pattern. These changes resulted in the interruption of the processes of succession without the transition of secondary to old-growth forests. However, the canopy of the study area provides better environmental services than did the previously existing vegetation cover. This study showed the need for the assessment of non-timber forest products as key indicators of land use change and alterations in associated plant cover.