, Volume 44, Issue 7, pp 678–684 | Cite as

Isolated Ficus trees deliver dual conservation and development benefits in a rural landscape

  • H. Eden W. Cottee-JonesEmail author
  • Omesh Bajpai
  • Lal B. Chaudhary
  • Robert J. Whittaker


Many of the world’s rural populations are dependent on the local provision of economically and medicinally important plant resources. However, increasing land-use intensity is depleting these resources, reducing human welfare, and thereby constraining development. Here we investigate a low cost strategy to manage the availability of valuable plant resources, facilitated by the use of isolated Ficus trees as restoration nuclei. We surveyed the plants growing under 207 isolated trees in Assam, India, and categorized them according to their local human-uses. We found that Ficus trees were associated with double the density of important high-grade timber, firewood, human food, livestock fodder, and medicinal plants compared to non-Ficus trees. Management practices were also important in determining the density of valuable plants, with grazing pressure and land-use intensity significantly affecting densities in most categories. Community management practices that conserve isolated Ficus trees, and restrict livestock grazing and high-intensity land-use in their vicinity, can promote plant growth and the provision of important local resources.


Assam Community management Conservation Development Ficus Human-uses 



We wish to thank Manju Barua, Maan Barua, Barry and Susan Jones, A. J. Tours and Travel, and Wild Grass EcoLodge for help facilitating this study. Biju Hazarika, Gokul Munda, Suno Bora, Raju Gogoi, Nakib Ali, Somnath Borah, and Ananda C. Dutta provided valuable field assistance. HEWC-J was supported by a St Edmund Hall Emden-Doctorow Scholarship and Writing-up Grant. OB and LBC are thankful to the Director, CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, India for financial support under BSC 0106 to carry out research on Ficus. Finally, we would like to thank all the local households who kindly contributed their knowledge of plants in Assam.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 135 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Eden W. Cottee-Jones
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Omesh Bajpai
    • 2
  • Lal B. Chaudhary
    • 2
  • Robert J. Whittaker
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Biodiversity Research Group, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University Centre for the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & DevelopmentKosi-Katarmal, AlmoraIndia
  3. 3.Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Department of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen ØDenmark
  4. 4.OxfordUK

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