Economic Botany

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 38–57 | Cite as

Conservation of useful plants: An evaluation of local priorities from two indigenous communities in Eastern Panama

  • Sarah Paule DalleEmail author
  • Catherine Potvin


On both theoretical and practical grounds, respect for, and inclusion of, local decision-making processes is advocated in conservation, yet little is known about the conservation priorities on local territories. We employed interviews and ecological inventories in two villages in order to (1) evaluate the local perception of the conservation status of important plant resources; (2) compare patterns of plant use; and (3) compare perceived conservation status with population structure and abundance in the field. One-third of the 35 species examined were perceived to be threatened or declining. These were predominantly used locally for construction or sold commercially, but were not necessarily rare in the field. The destructiveness of harvest was the most consistent predictor of conservation status in both villages. Contrasting patterns were found in the two villages for the frequency of plant harvest and the relationship of this variable with conservation status. We suggest that local knowledge is an efficient means to rapidly assess the status of a large number of species, whereas population structure analysis provides an initial evaluation of the impact of harvest for selected species.

Key Words

Conservation comparative ethnobotany indigenous territories local knowledge Panama population structure rapid assessment useful plants 

Conservación de Plantas Útiles: Una Evaluación de Prioridades Locales en dos Localidades del Este de PanamÁ


Tanto desde una perspectiva teórica como práctica el respeto e inclusión de los procesos locales de toma de decisiones es una forma en que la conservación puede ser promovida. Sin embargo, poco se sabe sobre las prioridades de conservación en territorios indígenas. En el presente estudio se emplearon entrevistas e inventarios ecológicos en dos localidades indígenas para (1) evaluar la percepción de los habitantes locales sobre el estado de conservación de recursos vegetales importantes; (2) comparar los patrones de uso de plantas; y (3) comparar la percepción del estado de conservación con la estructura de las poblaciones y la abundancia de las especies en el campo. Una tercera parte de las 35 especies estudiadas fueron percibidas como amenazadas o en proceso de declinación. Se trata de plantas utilizadas principalmente como materiales de construcción o que aportan productos que son comercializados, pero que no son necesariamente escasas en el campo. En ambas localidades la variable que predijo el estado de conservación de forma más consistente fue el grado de destrucción de las plantas asociado a las prócticas de cosecha. Encontramos patrones contrastantes entre las dos localidades con respecto a la frecuencia de cosecha y ala relación de esta variable con el estado de conservación de las plantas. Sugerimos que el uso de conocimientos locales es una forma eficiente de evaluar con rapidez el estado de un gran número de especies, en tanto que el análisis de la estructura de poblaciones aporta una evaluación inicial sobre el impacto de la cosecha para algunas especies de inters’e.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 10458-5126 U.S.A 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant ScienceMacdonald Campus of McGill UniversitySte-Anne-de-BellevueCanada
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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