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Free Content Impacts of the diversity of traditional uses and potential economic value on food tree species conservation status: case study of African bush mango trees (Irvingiaceae) in the Dahomey Gap (West Africa)

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Background and aims – Bitter and sweet African bush mango trees belong to the family Irvingiaceae and produce valuable non-timber forest products in humid lowland areas of West and Central Africa. The bitter and sweet types are treated as distinct taxa at the variety or species level. They have not been studied in the western part of their distribution range, and many aspects of their large-scale utilization remain unknown. In this study, we link differences in socio-cultural groups to the agroforestry status of bush mango trees in order to identify the key factors influencing their abundance and conservation in the study area.

Methods – First, we gathered uses and local management strategies from nine main socio-cultural areas in Benin and Togo, part of the Dahomey Gap. Second, occurrence data were obtained throughout the Gap and imported into DIVA-GIS and MATLAB to calculate the spatial pattern of the density and analyse its structure and variation relative to three factors: the country, the phytogeographical zone and the dominant soil category. Third, agroforestry system characteristics and farmers' social status relative to 841 trees were used in a multinomial logistic regression to identify anthropogenic factors driving the intensive cultivation of bush mango trees. Finally, the impact of socio-cultural activities on extent and density of bush mango tree populations was analysed.

Key results – In the entire study zone, the sweet mesocarp is consumed and the endocarp of bush mangoes is commercialized. The application of endocarp-based diets and socio-therapeutic uses are common to communities in Benin. Sweet bush mango trees are generally found either in home gardens or cultivation fields where they may occur at high densities (up to 1020 trees per 25 ha). Bitter trees, however, are confined to the Volta forest region in Togo and occur at low densities (< 462 trees per 25 ha) in the wild, sometimes in protected areas, in forest gardens and in fields. This indicates a clear difference in cultivation methods between the bitter and sweet trees. Farmland status, farmer socio-cultural group and type of bush mango trees determined the cultivation intensity.

Conclusion – The fact that small farmlands are converted into sweet bush mango tree orchards indicates that farmers actively cultivate bush mango trees in the study area. Diversity of indigenous knowledge, however, is not correlated either to intensive cultivation or domestication efforts and local genetic conservation program. Where slash and burn agriculture and intensive collection of fruits jeopardize bitter trees, traditional fishing systems (using bush mango twigs), a traditional selection strategy, and intensive land commercialization severely threaten sweet bush mango tree genetic resources.

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Keywords: BENIN; CONSERVATION; DAHOMEY GAP; DOMESTICATION; ETHNOBOTANY; GEOSTATISTICS; IRVINGIA; KRIGING; SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION; TOGO

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 23 March 2014

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  • Plant Ecology and Evolution (a continuation of Belgian Journal of Botany, incorporating Systematics and Geography of Plants) is an international journal devoted to ecology, phylogenetics and systematics of all 'plant' groups in the traditional sense (including algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, myxomycetes), also covering related fields such as comparative and developmental morphology, conservation biology, ecophysiology, evolution, phytogeography, pollen and spores, population biology, and vegetation studies. It is published by the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium and the Botanic Garden Meise and contains original research papers, review articles, checklists, short communications and book reviews.

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