Overexploitation of wildlife doesn’t just threaten animals such as bluefin tuna, pangolins, and parrots, but plants as well. Leaves from the carana or puy palm (Lepidocaryum tenue) are used for thatching buildings in the northwestern Amazon, however a recent study in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that the overharvesting could imperil a palm’s ability to survive.
Studying the palms in the Colombian Amazon, researchers harvested leaves to see how well the palms would stand up to stripping. They found that if more than half the palm leaves are picked—i.e. leaving the plant with less than four leaves—it could jeopardize the individual’s survival.
The study also found that long-term harvesting is only sustainable if palms are allowed four years to recover after leaves are harvested. In addition, harvesting palms from juvenile plants should be avoided to ensure survival of the population.
Pressure due to harvesting could also be relieved on the market end.
“One way to reduce pressure on the resource is to improve the quality of the braided tiles sold in the market. A properly braided tile, made with appropriate leaves, will last longer, and will therefore reduce the need for replacement,” the authors write.
CITATION: Navarro, J. A., Galeano, G. and Bernal, R. 2011. Impact of leaf harvest on populations of Lepidocaryum tenue, an Amazonian understory palm used for thatching. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 4 (1):25-38.
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