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Economic Botany

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 398–412 | Cite as

Regeneration Ecology of the Useful Flora of the Putu Range Rainforest, Liberia

  • Cicely A. MarshallEmail author
  • William D. Hawthorne
Article

Abstract

Regeneration Ecology of the Useful Flora of the Putu Range Rainforest, Liberia. We test the hypothesis that useful plants in general, and medicines in particular, are more likely to be pioneer and herbaceous species than any other guild or habit, using data from six communities in southeastern Liberia. Of 624 surveyed species from seven locally defined vegetation classes, 228 species (36 %) were found to be useful in the categories of food, medicine, materials, and social use. Five habits account for 98 % of surveyed species: Trees, treelets (including two palm species), lianes (including root climbers), shrubs, and herbs. Four guilds account for 93 % of the surveyed species: Swamp, shade–bearer, pioneer, and non–pioneer light demander (NPLD) species. A significantly higher proportion of pioneers is found to be useful overall (55 %) and useful medicinally (69 %) than for any other guild. However, the shade–bearing guild provides the greatest number of useful species (92 species) and the greatest number of medicinal species (55 species). Fifteen species were shortlisted by the communities for their particular importance, of which only one is a pioneer species. A similar proportion of species of each habit (about one–third of species) was found to be useful overall. In the case of medicinal use in particular, a significantly larger proportion of herbs (63 %) is medicinal than for any other habit. Our study from West Africa supports the findings of others working in the neotropics that disturbed and secondary vegetation classes are important sources of useful plants, particularly medicines. However, the greatest number of useful species are shade–bearing, which are most abundant in primary forest. Familiarity with and accessibility of old–growth forests to the communities of our study site due to Liberia’s recent history is likely responsible for their usefulness.

Key Words

Liberia Upper Guinea forest plant biodiversity useful plants non–timber forest product (NTFP) disturbance pioneer 

Résumé

Perturbation et écologie de la flore utile de la forêt tropicale de Putu Range, Libéria. Nous soumettons l'hypothèse que les plantes utiles en général, et médicinales en particulier, sont davantage susceptibles d'être des pionnières et des herbacées que n'importe quelle autre guilde ou que n'importe quel autre type végétal, en utilisant les données de 6 communautés locales dans le sud–est du Libéria. Sur 624 espèces recensées à partir de 7 formations végétales définies localement, 228 espèces (36 %) ont été identifiées comme utiles dans plusieurs catégories telles que l'alimentation, la médecine, les matériaux et l'utilisation sociale en général. Cinq types végétaux comptent pour 98 % des espèces recensées: les arbres, les petits arbres (dont deux espèces de palmiers), les lianes (incluant les plantes grimpantes), les arbustes et les herbacées. Quatre guildes comptent pour 93 % des espèces recensées: plantes des marais, plantes d'ombre, pionnières et non–pionnières chercheuses de lumières (espèces NPLD). Une proportion significativement élevée de pionnières est jugée globalement utile (55 %) et utile sur le plan médicinal (69 %), et cela plus que pour toute autre guilde. Cependant, les espèces d'ombre fournissent le plus grand nombre d'espèces utiles (92 espèces) et le plus grand nombre d'espèces médicinales (55 espèces). 15 espèces ont été sélectionnées par les populations locales pour leur importance particulière, dont une seule est une espèce pionnière. Une proportion semblable d'espèces de chaque type végétal (environ un tiers des espèces) a été trouvé pour être globalement utile. Dans le cas d'une utilisation médicinale, une plus grande proportion des espèces herbacées (63 %) est un remède, ceci étant bien plus élevé que pour tout autre type de végétation. Notre étude d'Afrique de l'Ouest appuie les conclusions d'autres travaux de la région néotropicale selon lesquels les formations végétales perturbées et secondaires sont des sources importantes de plantes utiles, en particulier de remèdes. Cependant, les espèces d'ombre représentent la majorité des plantes utiles. La connaissance et l'accessibilité des forêts anciennes pour les communautés de notre site d'étude en raison de l'histoire récente du Libéria contribue très probablement à leur utilité.

Notes

Acknowledgements and Disclaimer

This work was commissioned by Putu Iron Ore Mining Inc. prior to potential mining in the Putu Range, Liberia. We are grateful for the capable assistance and hard work of Reeves Dweh and Robert Slebo (PIOM) during the survey period; and to the other RBS team members Patrick Ekpe, James Kpadehyea, Wing–Yunn Crawley, and Daniel Dorbor. Thanks are due to Gabriel Lefevre for translating the abstract and title into French. We are grateful to the Putu residents who took time out of their daily routines to talk to us about plant use in the area.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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