Palm Harvest Impacts in tropical Forests

Palms may be the most use­ful group of plants in trop­ical American forests and in this pro­ject we study the effect of extrac­tion and trade of palms on forests in the west­ern Amazon, Andes, and Pacific low­lands of South America. In 2008 the European Community’s 7th Framework pro­gramme signed a con­tract with six European and four South American uni­ver­sit­ies and research insti­tu­tions to execute a mul­tidiscip­lin­ary research pro­ject con­cern­ing the effects of extrac­tion of palm products from trop­ical rain­forests with the aim of provid­ing sci­entific bases for the imple­ment­a­tion of sus­tain­able man­age­ment and har­vest­ing procedures.

Children and fruit

Palms are a vital eco­nomic resource in many coun­tries. See more images at our Facebook or Google Plus pages.

We determ­ine the size of the resource by mak­ing palm com­munity stud­ies in the dif­fer­ent forest form­a­tions and determ­ine 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 their pop­u­la­tions, and whether extrac­tion can be made without harm. We determ­ine how much palms are used for sub­sist­ence pur­poses by car­ry­ing out quant­it­at­ive, ethno-botanical research in dif­fer­ent forest types and we also study trade pat­terns for palm products from local mar­kets to mar­kets that involve export to other coun­tries and con­tin­ents. We study dif­fer­ent ways of palm man­age­ment and we pro­pose sus­tain­able meth­ods to local farm­ers, gov­ern­ments, NGOs and other inter­ested parties. Finally we study national level mech­an­isms that gov­ern extrac­tion, trade and com­mer­cial­iz­a­tion of palm products, to identify pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive policies in rela­tion to resi­li­ence of eco­sys­tems and use this to pro­pose sus­tain­able policies to the gov­ern­ments. The res­ults are dis­sem­in­ated in a vari­ety of ways, depend­ing on need and stake hold­ers, from pop­u­lar leaf­lets and videos for farm­ers, reports for policy makers to sci­entific pub­lic­a­tions for the research com­munity. The team behind the pro­posal rep­res­ents 10 uni­ver­sit­ies and research insti­tu­tions in Europe and north­west­ern South America (Aarhus and Copenhagen uni­ver­sit­ies in Denmark, Universtät Bonn in Germany, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain, Institut de Recherche pour le Developpment in France, Kew Gardens in the UK, Universidad Nacional, Bogotá in Colombia, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Univarsidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Peru, and Universidad Mayor de San Andres in Bolivia).

During the first three years of the pro­ject its vari­ous activ­it­ies has pro­duced a large amount of inform­a­tion and many papers (pop­u­lar and sci­entific) have been pub­lished. The great chal­lenge that remains is to bring together all this inform­a­tion in a syn­er­gistic con­clu­sion, which is the chal­lenge over the next two years (2012–2013). It is also a great chal­lenge to the pro­ject to incor­por­ate the res­ults of other research. In this respect the spe­cial issue of the Annals of Botany that appeared towards the end of 2011 is of great inspir­a­tion. The focus of that issue is much more on genetic manip­u­la­tion and devel­op­mental bio­logy than the research of our PALMS pro­ject, which is more ori­ented to the eco­logy and socioeco­nom­ics of palm uses. We are con­vinced that this spe­cial issue of the Annals of Botany will con­trib­ute to more syn­ergy between palm research­ers in dif­fer­ent dis­cip­lines, and we believe this will place the res­ults of our pro­ject in a more force­ful context.

Guest post by Dennis Pedersen. You can read more about the pro­ject at http://​www​.fp7​-palms​.org/

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