Can the use of medicinal plants motivate forest conservation in the humid mountains of Northern Oaxaca, Mexico?

Mónica Pérez-Nicolás, Heike Vibrans, Angélica Romero-Manzanares

Abstract


Background. Non-timber forest products are being integrated into conservation strategies. Medicinal plants are considered a reason to conserve the source forests.

Question. Can the use of medicinal plants motivate forest conservation?

Study site and dates. The study was conducted in Santiago Camotlán, Distrito Villa Alta, Oaxaca, a humid mountainous area in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico, from August 2011 to May 2013.

Methods. Ecological Land Units were characterized, and the relative importance of medicinal plants was evaluated. The ethnobotanical methods included participatory mapping, open interviews, semi-structured interviews and free lists with local specialists, as well as members of 17 systematically selected households, collection of characteristic and medicinal plant species, and plant walks with local specialists. For each species, a newly proposed Knowledge, Use and Perception Index based frequency of mention in free lists, frequency of use and perceived importance was calculated.

Results. Local people divided their territory primarily by physical geographic characteristics and utilization. Nine units were distinguished: village and roads, home gardens, pastures, cultivated fields (maize, beans, sugar cane and coffee), cloud forest, semi-evergreen tropical forest and evergreen tropical forest, secondary growth (acahuales), and riparian vegetation. The most important medicinal plants were Salvia microphylla, Lippia alba and Artemisia absinthium, all cultivated in home gardens; weedy vegetation provided the majority of all medicinal plants. Individuals interested in preserving medicinal species transplanted them into a home garden.

Conclusion. For people in the study area, the presence and use of medicinal plants was not a decisive reason for forest conservation.


Keywords


Ecological Land Units; home gardens; Knowledge; Use and Perception Index; tropical forest; wild plant collection

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17129/botsci.1862

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