Applying Indigenous Knowledge to the Restoration of Degraded Tropical Rain Forest Clearings Dominated by Bracken Fern
The indigenous Lacandon Maya people of southern Mexico use a rotational agriculture system known in Spanish as the milpa for production of maize and other crops. This system rotates production to different plots, allowing the forest and soil to recover in the fallow years between production periods. In some cases, the Lacandon people actively manage forest recovery, sowing Balsa trees to prevent plots from being taken over by the invasive Bracken fern.
research goals & methods
This study aimed to test the traditional Lacandon method using Balsa trees to suppress Bracken fern. Two different methods of establishing Balsa trees were used: broadcasting of Balsa seeds and transplanting of nursery-grown seedlings. Two different methods of Bracken control were also used: burning prior to seeding and active Bracken cutting. The percent cover of Bracken fronds and Balsa litter was estimated within the plots one year after planting.
conclusions & takeaways
The study found that the Lacandon use of Balsa trees is indeed an effective tool for suppressing Bracken fern in newly-fallow milpa plots. While transplantation resulted in the greatest survival of Balsa trees, seed broadcasting was more cost-effective and also created a more natural canopy structure. Cutting of Bracken ferns was determined to be the most effective method of suppression, but, like seed broadcasting, use of fire to prepare the site was more cost-effective and created more natural conditions.
Applying Indigenous Knowledge to the Restoration of Degraded Tropical Rain Forest Clearings Dominated by Bracken Fern. Restoration Ecology. 2008;18:322–329. doi:10.1111/j.1526-100x.2008.00459.x..
- Departamento de Ecología y Sistemática Terrestre, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
- Etnobiología para la conservación A.C., D.F., Mexico