Distribution, abundance and traditional management of Agave potatorum in the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico: Bases for sustainable use of non-timber forest products

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Abstract

Background: Agave species have been used for thousands of years in the Tehuacán Valley, but the current mescal production has great impact on populations of the most used species. Harvesting of A. potatorum takes place before sexual reproduction and the over-extraction put local populations at high risk. In the community of San Luis Atolotilán (SLA), mescal has been produced for one century but the growing mescal trade is leading to intensified agave extraction. Our study evaluated distribution and abundance of A. potatorum, extraction rates, management practices and economic importance for SLA households. The unbalanced relation between availability and extraction rates would be an indicator of risk requiring sustainable management strategies. Our case study aspires contributing to analyze general patterns for sustainable use for this and other forest products highly extracted. Methods: We used bioclimatic modeling to project a map of potential distribution of the species, and ecological sampling to estimate the total availability of harvestable agaves within the territory of SLA. We used participant observation, surveys and semi-structured interviews with producers and households of SLA to document agave uses, technological and socio-economic aspects of mescal production, and to estimate extraction rates of agaves. Results: Mescal production, medicine and fodder are the most important uses of A. potatorum. Its distribution area is nearly 608 ha where annually occur on average 7,296 harvestable plants, nearly 54 to 87% of them being harvested. Mescal production currently is a non-sustainable activity, requiring great changes in patterns of extraction and management adopting sustainable criteria. Local people started management planning to ensure the future availability of agaves, and the ecological information of this study has been helpful in constructing their decisions. Technical support for improving local experiences for managing populations' recovering is a priority. Interaction of scholars and local people for solving this problem is already taking place and strengthening this process may be determinant for successful results. Conclusions: Strategies for protecting particular populations, temporal substitution of agave species for mescal production, implementation of restoration and organization for fear commerce are needed for improving sustainable use of A. potatorum.

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Delgado-Lemus, A., Casas, A., & Téllez, O. (2014). Distribution, abundance and traditional management of Agave potatorum in the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico: Bases for sustainable use of non-timber forest products. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-10-63

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