Karen Homegardens: Characteristics, Functions, and Species Diversity

Abstract

Diversity is one of the most important traits of homegardens and contributes to maintaining their functions. Here, we investigated the diversity, characteristics, and functions of 75 Karen homegardens from four villages in Chiang Mai and Tak provinces in northern Thailand. In each homegarden, all used plant species were registered and classified according to their main use. The diversity and richness in each homegarden was estimated and the stratification of plants in horizontal zones was investigated. A total 268 plant species were recorded, ranging from 100 to 146 species in each of the four villages. These plants were mostly kept in the homegarden yard or along their boundaries. The most common species were mango (Mangifera indica L.), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.), guava (Psidium guajava L.), and taro Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott. Besides these species, most plants differed from one village to another. Distance between the homegardens was important; homegardens in the same village were more similar than those in different villages. However, beyond the individual level, the distances alone could not be used to determine similarity. Despite the variation of species found in homegardens, the function and horizontal stratification of the Karen homegardens shared many traits. They satisfied both physical and aesthetic needs to the Karen people as witnessed by the high proportion of food and ornamental species. The reverse effects of urbanization (we used the distance from the nearest urban area as a proxy) on the diversity of ornamental species was also observed. In general, Karen homegardens had high richness and diversity which directly benefited the conservation of plant species. This diversity promotes food security at the household and community levels.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all villagers who contributed to the success of this research. We acknowledge financial support from DPST, National Research Council Thailand, Grants for Development of New Faculty Staff, Chiang Mai University, and Plant Germplasm Conservation Project of H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. We are grateful for facilities provided by Chiang Mai University. Henrik Balslev acknowledges support from the Carlsberg Foundation. We also appreciate valuable comments from two anonymous reviewers and the editor, all of which helped improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Angkhana Inta.

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List of species found in the 75 homegardens in the four Karen villages in northern Thailand and their use categories (HH, Huai Hia village; KTN, Khun Tuen Noi village; MT, Mae Tom village; VDG, Va Dro Gro village) and vouchers deposited in Ethnobotany and Northern Thai Flora Laboratory, Chiang Mai University. (DOCX 48 kb)

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Panyadee, P., Balslev, H., Wangpakapattanawong, P. et al. Karen Homegardens: Characteristics, Functions, and Species Diversity. Econ Bot 72, 1–19 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-018-9404-8

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Key Words:

  • Karen ethnobotany
  • Thailand agroforestry system
  • homegarden zonation
  • Chiang Mai province
  • Tak province