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

Research paper by Sarah Paule Dalle, Catherine Potvin

Indexed on: 01 Mar '04Published on: 01 Mar '04Published in: Economic Botany


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.