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Identification of potential areas for wild palm cultivation in the Republic of Benin through remote sensing and ecological niche modeling


Wild palms contribute significantly to food security and local economy in tropical areas, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In light of this importance, eight palm species were explored [Borassus aethiopum (L.) Mart, Eremospatha macrocarpa (G. Mann et H. Wendl.) H. Wendl., Laccosperma opacum (G. Mann et H. Wendl.) Drude, Hyphaene thebaica (L.) Mart, Phoenix reclinata Jacq., Raphia hookeri G. Mann et H. Wendl., R. sudanica A. Chev., and R. vinifera P. Beauv.] as targets for conservation, domestication, and cultivation in Benin. Cultivation potential was evaluated in a coarse-resolution, first-pass effort using ecological niche models to relate known occurrences of each species to vegetation indices (VEG), gross primary productivity (GPP), and soil characteristics (SOIL), and model outputs were related to human distribution and land-use patterns. Results showed that wild palms responded differentially to different suites of environmental factors: some species showed best model performance with VEG + GPP + SOIL, others with GPP + SOIL or VEG + GPP, or with a single factor. Two species had broad potential distributions across the country; others had potential areas in the north (2 species) or the south (4 species). Raphia hookeri and R. vinifera showed greatest overlap in terms of ecology and distribution, whereas L. opacum and R. sudanica had the lowest similarity. These models constitute initial steps toward a sustainable scheme for planning exploration of the possibility of cultivation of these species.

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This work was fully funded by University of Abomey-Calavi through Wild Palm project and the World Bank via a scholarship (RSM McNamara fellowship) provided to Rodrigue Idohou for a 6 months stay at the University of Kansas. We are grateful to the entire Biogeography and Macroecology lab group for fruitful exchange and support.

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Correspondence to Rodrigue Idohou.

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Idohou, R., Townsend Peterson, A., Assogbadjo, A.E. et al. Identification of potential areas for wild palm cultivation in the Republic of Benin through remote sensing and ecological niche modeling. Genet Resour Crop Evol 64, 1383–1393 (2017).

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  • Cultivation
  • West Africa
  • Wild palms