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Agroforestry systems and biodiversity conservation in arid zones: the case of the Tehuacán Valley, Central México

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Abstract

The role of agroforestry systems in biodiversity conservation was investigated in the semiarid Tehuacán Valley, Central México. Richness and diversity of native plant species were compared between agroforestry systems (6 sampling sites) and the following forests (6 sampling sites) dominated by columnar cacti: (i) “chichipera” dominated by Polaskia chichipe; (ii) “jiotillal” dominated by Escontria chiotilla; and (iii) “garambullal” dominated by Myrtillocactus schenckii. Our information on genetic variation of dominant arboreal species in the study sites was reviewed and included in the analysis. Factors influencing household’s decisions to maintain vegetation cover were compiled through a survey and interviews and analyzed. All the samples of the agroforestry systems studied maintained on average nearly 59% plant species and 94% genetic variation of dominant cacti occurring in the forests, although their ability to preserve endemic rare species is limited. Social factors favoring maintenance of perennial species in agricultural plots include collective rules, households traditions, use of the plants maintained in the systems, and the environmental information gathered from NGOs, the local Biosphere Reserve, and researchers. However, agroforestry systems are losing their capability to maintain vegetation cover, mainly because of (i) decreasing amount of land managed by households, determined by a progressive fragmentation of the land area given to new families, (ii) adoption of technologies to intensify agriculture, and (iii) governmental programs penalizing the presence of vegetation patches within agricultural lands since they are considered “useless” areas. Necessary policies to stop degradation of the agroforestry systems and to improve their conservation capacity are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas, UNAM and Consejo Nacional de Ciencia Tecnología CONACYT, for a PhD grant of the first author, as well as the Programa de Apoyo a Proyectos de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica (PAPIIT, IN220005 and IN219608) and CONACYT (CB-2008-01-103551), Mexico, and The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, U.K. for financial support. We also thank Dr. Alicia Castillo for her critical comments to a previous version of the manuscript. We emphatically thank the people of the region for their hospitality.

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Correspondence to A. Casas.

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Moreno-Calles, A., Casas, A., Blancas, J. et al. Agroforestry systems and biodiversity conservation in arid zones: the case of the Tehuacán Valley, Central México. Agroforest Syst 80, 315–331 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-010-9349-0

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