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Agricultura, sociedad y desarrollo

versión impresa ISSN 1870-5472

agric. soc. desarro vol.15 no.3 Texcoco jul./sep. 2018

 

Articles

Traditional Knowledge and Valuation of Useful Plants in El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas, México

Sergio G. Medellín-Morales1  * 

Ludivina Barrientos-Lozano1 

Arturo Mora-Olivo2 

Pedro Almaguer-Sierra1 

Sandra G. Mora-Ravelo2 

1División de Estudios de Posgrado e Investigación, Instituto Tecnológico de Ciudad Victoria, Blvd. Emilio Portes Gil No. 1301, Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. 87010. (sgmede@gmail.com), (ludivinab@yahoo.com), (almagavetec@hotmail.com).

2Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, Instituto de Ecología Aplicada, Calle División del Golfo No. 356, Col. Ampliación La Libertad, Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. 87019. (amorao@uat.edu.mx), (sgmoravelo@hotmail.com)

Abstract

The research was carried out in two ejidos, Alta Cima and San José, El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, from December 2012 to March 2016. Objectives: a) to determine the wealth of useful plants; b) to calculate the level of preference of inhabitants regarding these; and c) to define priorities for conservation and sustainable exploitation through socioeconomic and ecological valuation. Random interviews were performed with 30 % of the households; 20 interviews with quality informants; and two community participative workshops. Various methodologies were used to obtain the “use value” and priorities for conservation. The following were identified: 156 preferred useful plants and 62 botanical families, with the most frequent being Labiatae, Rosaceae, Asteraceae and Fabaceae. The taxa with highest use value were cimarrón walnut (Juglans mollis Engelm.), berry (Maclura tinctoria (L.) D. Don ex Steud.), malva babosa (Heliocarpus donellsmithii Rose), maravilla (Mirabilis jalapa L.), and Mexican royal oak (Quercus germana Schltdl. & Cham.). These use values are not necessarily related to their economic, ecological and social valuation. The species with highest socioeconomic and ecological valuation are five species, vital for the economy and subsistence in El Cielo Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo, RBEC): palmilla (Chamaedorea radicalis Mart.), wild blackberries (Rubus sapidus Schltdl. and Rubus coriifolius Liebm.), and wild grapes (Vitis cinerea (Engelm.) Millardet and Vitis tiliifolia Humb. & Bonpl. ex Schult.).

Key words: natural protected area; mountainous mesophyll forest; peasant communities; ethnobotany; use value

Introduction

There are few studies that attempt to try to understand and document the process that local inhabitants carry out to use and take advantage of the plant resources available. This is particularly important when these peasant communities are found in protected areas. The useful flora represents a central component in the set of strategies and inputs that make up the livelihoods and therefore the survival of rural communities (Chambers and Conway, 1992), and it is a key element of local ecosystems.

Cloud forests, such as those in the mountain range of Sierra de Guatemala in the state of Tamaulipas, are biodiverse sites that contain approximately 10 % of the plant variability in the country and, at the same time, provide a series of environmental services to the surrounding area (Williams, 2007). Therefore, and because it is a protected area, it is important to perform ethnobotanical studies that help to understand the forms of management, knowledge and values that local inhabitants build around them. For the case of El Cielo Biosphere Reserve (RBEC), various studies have been performed that include useful species, such as those by Lara (1989), Hernández-Sandoval et al. (1991), Mora-López and Medellín-Morales (1991), González-Romo and Gispert (2005), Pérez-Quilantán et al. (2005), Mora-Olivo et al. (2005), Garza et al. (2005), Berrones and Medellín-Morales (2005), and Medellín-Morales and Osorio (2007). However, only two studies focus specifically on the ethnobotanical diversity in the study zone: those by González-Romo and Gispert (2005), and Pérez-Quilantán et al. (2005).

When the RBEC was decreed (1985) as natural protected area, the use of timber-yielding species was limited (the existing sawmills were closed); this encouraged the use and management of non-timber species. The hypothesis is set out that the level of ethnobotanical knowledge in the study communities will be different given their different elevation and the ethnic composition of its inhabitants. The objectives of the research were: a) To quantify the usefulness and diversity of uses of the wild and cultivated vascular plants in two communities of the cloud forest of the RBEC; b) To research the degree of knowledge of vascular plants in the communities studied; and c) To define which are the most valued and demanded vascular plant species for both communities from the ecological, economic and social points of view.

The two communities studied (Alta Cima and San José) are located in the belt of cloud forest of the RBEC, at altitude between 900 and 1,300 masl, between the Sierra de Cucharas and the Sierra Chiquita, in a portion of the Sierra Madre Oriental known as Sierra de Guatemala. The RBEC has an extension of 144,530.51 ha and includes territories from the municipalities of Jaumave, Llera, Gómez Farías and Ocampo, in the southeastern part of the state of Tamaulipas. The conservation efforts at the regional and global level have identified repeatedly the RBEC in general, and the communities of the cloud forest in particular, as priority areas for biodiversity conservation and as important components in the landscape, since they favor the connectivity between habitats, both altitudinal and latitudinal, in addition to being a critical habitat for an important number of migratory birds (Gobierno de Tamaulipas and TNC, 2011). The communities are similar in terms of the structure and composition of their population and even in terms of the number of inhabitants (120 in Alta Cima and 100 in San José); these are considered to have a “high degree of marginalization” and present schooling indexes under the state mean (5.58 vs. 8.04). In both communities there is a heterogeneous mix regarding the ethnic origin of their inhabitants; they are descendants of local migrants (Gómez Farías) with people from other states of the republic, such as Michoacán and Estado de México (San José) and Hidalgo (Alta Cima), who arrived to the zone with the purpose of supporting the sawmills in wood exploitation.

The main agricultural and livestock activities of the resident population are: rainfed crops in small areas (maize, bean, squash, nopal and saffron); fruit orchards (peach and guava); and, to a lesser extent, subsistence cattle production (only in San José). The main sources of income are the regulated extraction of palmilla leaves (Chamaedorea radicalis Mart.); employment as paid workforce during the period of sugar harvest in the sugar plants of El Mante and Xicoténcatl; temporary work “picking” lime, orange or onion in southern Tamaulipas and, recently, ecotourism service provision from peasant cooperatives (Gobierno de Tamaulipas and TNC, 2011) (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Localization of the communities of study and El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas, México. 

Materials and Methods

The study was performed in the ejidos Alta Cima and San José of the municipality of Gómez Farías, Tamaulipas, which are within the cloud forest of the RBEC. In order to obtain the field information, semi-structured interviews were carried out with 30 % of the family units (Alexaides, 1996). The “Standardized ethnobotanical survey file card” was elaborated where all the data useful for the research were recorded (Blanche et al. 1996; Casana et al. 1996).

The ethnobotanical information was gathered in three periods: December 2012 to November 2013 (ethnobotanical surveys); December 2013 to March 2014 (ethnobotanical walks); and April to March 2016 (focal groups, participative workshops and species valuation). In order to collect the information the recommendations by Hoffman and Gallaher (2007) were followed, requesting the collaboration of experts in the knowledge and use of plants in each community, then selecting a group of ten “quality informants”. The techniques used were: a) Semi-structured interviews (Rodríguez-Gómez et al., 1999), where personal data were requested (name, age, schooling and main activities), and those related to the useful plants considered most important (local name of the plant, biological form, place of extraction, period of extraction, used parts and types of use); b) Ethnobotanical walks and mini-herbariums (Arias and Cárdenas, 2007; Hersch-Martínez and González-Chávez, 2009): field visits through the areas of daily action, elaboration of “mini-herbariums”, and/or photographic record of the species considered most important, material which was used to foster the discussion in focal groups; c) Participative workshops (Hersch-Martínez and González-Chávez, 2009) to compare information and validate the results obtained; d) Participative workshops for the valuation of plant species (Peters, 1996; Lawless and Heymann, 1998): one per community, with the participation of 10 quality informants in each case that evaluated each of the species recorded based on a matrix of variables of social, economic and ecological nature; e) The samples collected were pressed and dried for their later identification and incorporation into the Herbarium of the Ciudad Victoria Technological Institute (Instituto Tecnológico de Ciudad Victoria, ITCV), according to the standard technique proposed by Lot and Chiang (1986). For the determination, taxonomic keys were used, such as those for the flora of Veracruz, flora of the Bajío region and adjacent regions, and flora of Guatemala, as well as comparison with the specimens from the ITCV Herbarium.

Information analysis: uses of the species

The selection of informants was done randomly, seeking representation by gender, age, occupation and place of birth. From the information obtained during the semi-structured interviews, the taxa reported were grouped into 17 categories of use based on Cárdenas et al. (2002).

RQZ=Valor EU MáximoEU

where: RQZ: wealth of knowledge that a person has of the useful species, in relation to all the useful species found in the region; EU: number of useful species recorded by a person; Maximum EU Value: total of useful species reported in the region by all the people participating in the study. The value of this index varies from 0 to 1, with 1 being the maximum value of knowledge of the useful biodiversity of the region.

Level of preference towards the species

In order to evaluate the preferences of the inhabitants towards the plants used, the concept of “use value” was used (VU, for initials in Spanish) (Philips and Gentry, 1993). This valuation shows the amount of uses that a specific plant is given. To determine this valuation, interviews were performed with “quality” informants about the names and local uses of the plants; each time an informant indicates a use it is cataloged as an event. The formula is the following:

VUis=UisNis

where: VUis: use value attributed to a specific species (s) by an informant (i); Uis: number of uses mentioned by the informant; Nis: total number of events.

Then, the general use value is obtained with the sum of the use values calculated before:

VUs=VUisNs

where VUis: use value attributed to a specific species (s) by an informant (i); Ns: total number of informants interviewed about a specific species (s).

An entity or taxa can be used more than another due to reasons of abundance, preference, or else, it can have more than one application within each category. To capture these variables, the interpretation of use value (VU, for initials in Spanish) used by Prance et al. (1987) was adopted in this study. It is established that the highest VU of a species for a specific category adopts the value 1, and the lowest VU is 0.5. The total use value of a species was obtained by adding the use values from each category. In order to obtain the VU of the corresponding botanical family, the total VUs of the species were added and divided by the number of species in that family.

Valuation and selection of priority species

With the aim of reaching a consensus concerning which were the categories of use that represented most importance for the local inhabitants, as well as the species of highest appreciation, both for their use value and for the change value, each one of the informants was presented with a list of the names of the categories and plants recorded in the previous stage. This list was accompanied by a format to record and evaluate each one of the species selected according to Peters (1996) in a matrix that includes variables of social, economic and ecological nature. The valuation was made through the method proposed by Lawless and Heymann (1998), modified by Martínez-Pérez et al. (2012), a technique broadly applied in psychology studies and in sensory evaluation panels. However, in contrast with the original technique, for this study the drawing of the straight line was substituted with a valuation scale from 0 to 10. For this purpose, each participant was given a list of the species identified as the most important useful plants in each of the communities, accompanied by a matrix of 12 columns to grade each of the social, economic and ecological variables, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Variables used to evaluate the socioeconomic importance and ecological factors of the species selected in Alta Cima and San José, municipality of Gómez Farías, Tamaulipas. 

Variables sociales Variables económicas Variables ecológicas
1. Reconocido uso o consumo tradicional en la región. 4. Posibilidad de colecta durante un jornal. 9. Abundancia de la especie.
2. Interés en el manejo de la especie. 5. Dificultad para transportar la colecta del día. 10. Rapidez de crecimiento de la planta.
3. Aptitud para otros usos. 6. Precio relativo de venta. 11. Existencia de plantas jóvenes y adultas.
7. Capacidad del mercado para absorber la oferta. 12. Capacidad de recuperación de la planta después de su aprovechamiento.
8. Extracción por temporada productiva. 13. Capacidad de la planta para desarrollar estructuras reproductivas.

The grades assigned by each informant for each plant and variable were calculated in a scale of 0 to 10. Later, the corresponding averages were calculated from the individual grades of each species and variable. The plants that obtained the highest averages for a specific variable were considered as outstanding for that characteristic. Depending on the number of variables (social, economic or ecological), for which a given plant resulted as outstanding, they were prioritized in: Socioeconomic Valuation: (a) species of highest socioeconomic importance, those that were outstanding in 2-3 social variables and 3-5 economic; (b) those of medium importance, which were outstanding in 1 social variable and 1-2 economic; and (c) those of lowest relevance, which were not outstanding in any variable. Ecological Valuation: (a) Species of highest abundance or highest possibilities of increasing their populations, which were outstanding in 3-5 ecological variables; (b) species of regular abundance, which were outstanding in 1-2 ecological variables, and (c) scarce or threatened species, which were not outstanding in any ecological variable.

Results and Discussion

Ethnofloristic wealth. The total plant species pointed out as useful in the communities studied was 156 taxa. In Alta Cima, 117 useful taxa were reported, of which 50 are of exclusive use and 67 have many uses. When analyzing the number of plants recorded by category of use in this locality, it is observed that the most abundant were for food (37 %), medicinal (36 %), ornamental (32 %) and artisanal (14 %). For San José, 98 useful taxa were reported, of which 53 are related to an exclusive use and 45 with many uses. When analyzing the number of plants found by category of use in this locality, it is observed that the most abundant were medicinal (41%), ornamental (35 %), for food (33 %) and to make beverages (10%) (Table 2).

Table 2 Categories of use and number of useful plants in the communities of study. 

Categorías de uso Alta Cima San José
A B C A B C
Alimento 43 15 28 32 13 19
Artesanía 16 6 10 3 1 2
Aserrío 0 0 0 7 1 6
Colorante 0 0 0 0 0 0
Combustible 11 0 11 7 3 4
Construcción 13 1 12 6 0 6
Mágico-Religiosa 7 0 7 7 0 7
Forraje 1 0 1 1 0 1
Medicinal 42 9 33 40 13 27
Ornamental 38 18 20 34 22 12
Psicotrópico 1 0 1 1 0 1
Tóxico 0 0 0 2 1 1
Veterinario 1 0 1 0 0 0
Bebida 12 0 12 10 0 10
Cerca 3 0 3 3 0 3
Melífera 5 0 5 0 0 0
Condimento 10 1 9 5 0 5
Total menciones 203 50 153 158 54 104

It is remarkable that the categories with highest specificity of use in both communities (36 and 46%) were ornamental, for food and medicinal. In contrast, plants for construction, spices and magical-religious uses are multifunctional (Table 3).

Table 3 Specificity of use of useful plant species in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima San José
Categoría de uso Porcentaje Categoría de uso Porcentaje
Ornamental 15 % Ornamental 22 %
Alimento 13 % Alimento 12 %
Medicinal 8 % Medicinal 12 %
Artesanía 5 % Combustible 3 %

Level of knowledge in both communities

The total useful plant species in the communities studied was 156. There is a numerical difference in Alta Cima (total value of 0.75, that is, the users know 75 % of the 156 species identified for the study zone), followed by San José (total value of 0.63) (Table 4).

Table 4 Indexes of knowledge (RQZ) in the communities of study. 

Comunidad Taxa útiles Taxa nativas Taxa exóticas RQZ Total % Conocimiento
Alta Cima 117 65 52 0.75 75 %
San José 98 42 59 0.63 63 %
Total 156 97 59

However, when observing the maximum and minimum values in each locality and the average values, these are similar and there are no significant differences, as was proven when applying the Student’s t-test (Table 5).

Table 5 Maximum and minimum values (RQZ) in the communities of study. 

Comunidad Valor máximo RQZ # Taxa Valor mínimo RQZ # Taxa Valor promedio RQZ # Taxa
Alta Cima 0.33 38 0.18 21 0.24 29
San José 0.31 30 0.23 22 0.24 27
Student’s t-test of the means of useful plants per locality.
Alta Cima San José
Media 28.5 26.6
Varianza 22.1578947 11.2
Observaciones 20 20.0
Varianza agrupada 16.6789474
Diferencia hipotética de las medias 0
Grados de libertad 38
Estadístico t 1.47119175
P(T≤t) una cola 0.0747363
Valor crítico de t (una cola) 1.68595446
P(T≤ t) dos colas 0.1494726
Valor crítico de t (dos colas) 2.02439416

Useful species and level of preference. In this study, 156 taxa of useful plants were identified, corresponding to 62 botanical families for Alta Cima and 50 for San José. The most frequent families in both communities were: Labiatae, Rosaceae, Asteraceae and Fabaceae (Table 6).

Table 6 Most outstanding botanical families with useful plants in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima San José
Familia botánica % Spp. útiles VU X Familia Familia botánica % Spp. útiles VU X Familia
Labiatae 6 % 1.97 Asteraceae 9 % 1.22
Rosaceae 6 % 1.72 Rosaceae 7 % 1.68
Fabaceae 5 % 1.23 Labiatae 6 % 1.42
Asteraceae 4 % 1.80 Solanaceae 6 % 2.08
Orchidaceae 4 % 1.00 Fabaceae 4 % 1.50
Moraceae 3 % 1.50 Amaranthaceae 3 % 1.00
Rutaceae 3 % 1.55 Amaryllidaceae 3 % 1.00
Pinaceae 3 % 1.43
Orchidaceae 3 % 1.00

These 156 species are defined as “key cultural species” (Garibaldi and Turner, 2004; Núñez and Simberloff, 2005; Del Amo, 2011), and, therefore, correspond to the “local ethnobotanical heritage” (Pardo de Santayana and Gómez-Peyón, 2003) or to the “local biocultural heritage” (Carambula and Ávila, 2013), key starting point for management plans with aims of use and conservation.

Regarding the specific demand, the useful plants species with highest demand have to do with the supply of specific materials for daily life, whether food v.gr. venadilla o tepehua (Porophyllum ruderale (Jacq.) Cass.) and guava (Pisidium guajava L.). Others are used as medicinal remedies, such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) and elderberry (Sambuscus nigra Schltd. ssp. canadensis (L.) R. Bolli), or else they are quite appreciated for specific uses, such as the wood of the cimarrón walnut (Juglans mollis Engelm.) for handicrafts; berry (Maclura tinctoria (L.) D. Don ex Steud.) and palo de agua (Dendropanax arboreus (L.) Decne. & Planch.) to make poles; or else others are ornament, like maravilla (Mirabilis jalapa (L.) (Table 7).

Table 7 Species of highest demand in the communities studied of the cloud forest in El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas, Mexico. 

Alta Cima
Taxa más demandados
San José
Taxa más demandados
Nogal cimarrón Nogal cimarrón
(Juglans mollis Engelm.) (3.67) (Juglans mollis Engelm.) (3.67)
Mora Encino roble o rojo
(Maclura tinctoria (L.) D. Don ex Steud.) (3.0) (Quercusgermana Schltdl. & Cham.) (3.33)
Malva babosa Floripondio o trompeta de ángel
(Heliocarpus donell-smithii Rose) (3.0) (Brugmansia suaveolens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) Sweet) (3.0)
Maravilla
(Mirabilis jalapa L.) (3.0) Guayaba
Palo de agua o palo santo (Psidium guajava L.) (3.0)
(Dendropanax arboreus (L.) Decne. & Planch.) (3.0)
Romero Mora
(Rosmarinus officinalis L.) (3.0) (Maclura tinctoria (L.) D. Don ex Steud.) (3.0)
Venadilla o Tepehua Sauco
(Porophyllum ruderale (Jacq.) Cass.) (3.0) (Sambuscus nigra Schltd. subsp. canadensis (L.) R. Bolli) (3.0)

Wild species.

In contrast to what happens in Alta Cima, in San José the highest demand values were obtained in cultivated species of exogenous origin. This denotes the high cultural importance that these species have acquired for local inhabitants. According to Núñez y Simberloff (2005), when exotic species acquire high indexes of importance value, they can act as an obstacle for biological conservation and can even begin to act as invading species that threaten the permanence of native biodiversity. However, we consider that this is not the case and that these species have acquired a “naturalization card”, even becoming part of different cultural manifestations present, since, as Bennett y Prance (2000) suggest, when ethnobotanical research is done, researchers should not only notice the predominance of exotic plants and justify their results in terms of acculturation processes.

Table 8 presents the demand for the species by category and by community. According to the informants consulted, these categories have played an important role in local life, but the processes of transculturation and the decree of the RBEC transformed the knowledge and role of these types of uses in daily life, which has caused the disuse of several species that belong to these categories, especially those used for timber, toxic ones (particularly for livestock), for coloring, fodder and of veterinary use. Others, on the contrary, have been revalued in recent times, such as those used for handicrafts (in particular for seed necklaces, bracelets and earrings) and for beverage-making (especially homemade fruit liquors). Despite the wealth of species of these categories of use, the results show that these categories with highest percentages seem not to play a main role in the livelihoods developed presently, since the ancestral practices of disease care with medicinal plants have been lost with time, as well as the collection and consumption of wild food species.

Table 8 Number of species and their demand in the communities of study, El Cielo BR, Tamaulipas, Mexico. 

Categorías de uso Alta Cima San José
No. especies Demanda (Sumatoria VU) % No. especies Demanda (Sumatoria VU) %
Alimentos 43 40.2 37 32 22.00 33
Artesanía 16 12.0 14 3 2.70 3
Aserrío 0 0.0 0 7 5.60 7
Colorante 0 0.0 0 0 0.00 0
Combustible 11 9.5 9 13 9.70 13
Construcción 13 12.0 11 6 3.40 6
Mágico-Religioso 9 8.3 7 7 5.40 7
Forraje 1 0.8 1 1 0.70 1
Medicinal 42 40.0 36 40 36.00 41
Ornamental 38 33.0 32 34 30.00 35
Psicotrópico 1 0.0 1 1 1.00 1
Tóxico 0 0.0 0 2 2.00 2
Veterinario 1 0.5 1 0 0.00 0
Bebida 12 8.4 10 10 8.00 10
Cerca 3 1.8 3 3 2.50 3
Melífera 5 1.4 4 0 0.00 0
Condimento 10 6.8 9 5 4.00 5

Valuation and selection of priority species for conservation and sustainable exploitation

Socioeconomic valuation of wild species. Wild species of greatest socioeconomic importance. These are shown in Table 9. Of these species, magnolia (Magnolia tamaulipana A. Vázquez), smooth-bark Mexican pine (Pinus pseudostrobus Lindl.) and berry (Maclura tinctoria (L.) D. Don ex Steud.), have an aspect of subsistence, but they are quite valued to be reproduced in nursery for reforestation and for their sale as ornamentals. The other species are quite appreciated and managed because they provide cash income, such as palmilla1(Chamaedorea radicalis Mart.), whose collection constitutes the main source of income for inhabitants in the communities of study; and the others, wild blackberries (Rubus coriifolius Liebm. and Rubus sapidus Schltdl.) and wild grapes (Vitis cinerea (Engelm.) Millardet and V. tiliifolia Humb. & Bonpl. ex Roem. & Schult.), are frequently used in the elaboration of conserves and homemade liquors by local inhabitants, who sell them to tourists that visit the zone. Of these, the first six are the most abundant or with highest capacity to increase their populations according to the perception of local inhabitants, while the last one (berry) was the scarcest naturally in the ecosystems of the communities of study.

Table 9 Wild plant species of highest socioeconomic importance in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima San José
Especie Categoría de uso Valoración Socio-económica Especie Categoría de uso Valoración Socio-económica
Magnolia Med, Orn 10.00 Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B, Med 10.00
Cedro rojo Const, Art 9.50 Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B, Med 10.00
Tila Med 9.10 Uva de monte Alim, B 9.90
Tostada de caballo Orn 9.10 Uva de monte Alim, B 9.90
Trompillo Med 9.10 Palmilla Orn 9.30
Palmilla Orn 8.90 Pino tecatón Comb, Aserr 9.30
Guajillo o tepeguaje Comb 8.80 Pino nylon o triste Aserr, Constr, Orn, Comb 9.20
Nogal cimarrón Alim, Med, Constr, Art 8.60 Paxtle Orn 9.10
Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B, Med 8.60 Laurel Cond, B, Med 9.00
Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B, Med 8.60 Magnolia Med, Orn, Aserr 8.90
Naranjillo Mag-Rel, Const 8.50 Pata de vaca Alim, Comb 8.90
Pata de vaca Alim, Comb 8.50 Alamillo Aserr, Constr, Med 8.90
Rejalgar u Oreja de elefante Alim, Orn 8.50 Encino blanco Comb 8.80
Orquídea blanca Orn 8.40 Encino roble o rojo Med, Comb, C, Aserr 8.80
Orquídea calavera Orn 8.40 Quelite blanco o Quintonil Alim 8.80
Orquídea pasto Orn 8.40 Quelite morado Alim 8.80
Orquídea negra o Pulpito Orn 8.40 Quelite de pata roja Alim 8.80
Orquídea zapatito Orn 8.40 Hierba del golpe Med 8.70
Cuchillitos o Patol Alim, Art, C 8.30 Guajillo o tepeguaje Comb 8.60
Uva de monte Alim, B 8.30 Hierba del burro Med, Mag-Rel 8.60
Romerillo Orn, C 8.20 Oyamel Aserr, Orn 8.60
Mora Const, C 8.10 Tila Med 8.60
Uva de monte Alim, B 8.10 Trompillo Med 8.60
Maravilla Orn 8.00 Mora Const, C 8.40
Orcajuda Mag-Rel, Med 8.40
Palo bolero ó amarillo Comb 8.40
Anisillo Med, B 8.30
Pagüilla Const, Comb 8.30
Pohua Const, Art 8.30
Verdolaga Alim 8.30
Berro Alim 8.20
Jabonero o cóngora Alim 8.10
Cedro rojo Aserr 8.00

Another case is the good valuation made of at least four species of orchids (Encyclia mariae (Ames) W.E. Higgins, Stanhopea tigrina Bateman ex Lindl., Isochilus unilateralis B.L. Rob., Prostechea cochleata (L.) W.E. Higgins and Lycaste deppei (Lodd.) Lindl.), about which there is a manifest interest in reproducing them, even with limited distribution and some being listed as in danger of extinction (Table 9).

Wild plants of medium socioeconomic importance are shown in Table 10. Several of these species have, naturally, scarce populations in the different habitats of the cloud forest, and are mostly appreciated for auto-consumption, whether for construction or for handicrafts, such as the red cedar (Cedrela odorata L.); to build “dead” wood fences, hueso de tigre (Wimmeria concolor Schltdl. & Cham.); as medicine, pohua (Trema micrantha (L.) Blume), aguacatillo (Nectandra salicifolia (Kunth) Nees) and arnica (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides (Kunth) Cabrera); or as ornamentals, romerillo (Taxus globosa Schltdl.), moquito (Podocarpus matudae Lundell) and arnica (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides (Kunth) Cabrera). There is a particular interest in increasing the populations through intensive cultivation of red cedar and hueso de tigre, as well as for other species in nurseries for their sale as ornamental plants, such as romerillo, moquito and arnica.

Table 10 Wild plant species of medium socioeconomic importance in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima San José
Especie Categoría de uso Valoración Socio-económica Especie Categoría de uso Valoración Socio-económica
Pohua Const, Art 7.90 Aguacatillo Med, Comb 7.90
Tejocote cimarrón Alim, Med 7.90 Begonia Orn 7.90
Tres hojitas Med 7.90 Dalia silvestre Orn 7.90
Capulín Comb, Med 7.80 Gallitos Alim 7.90
Pagüilla Const, Comb 7.80 Rejalgar u Oreja de elefante Alim, Orn 7.90
Palo de agua Alim, Med, Orn 7.70 Romerillo Orn, C 7.90
Coyolillo Art, Orn 7.50 Cedro chino Orn 7.80
Jaboncillo Art 7.40 Mala mujer Alim, Med 7.80
Jacubo Alim 7.40 Moquito Orn 7.80
Cordoncillo Mag-Rel, Med 7.30 Capulín Comb, Med 7.60
Aquiche o guácima Alim, Med 7.30 Nogal cimarrón Alim, Med, Constr, Art 7.50
Guaco Med 7.20 Anonilla Art 7.30
Árnica Med, Orn 7.00 Cigarrilla Med 7.20
Monilla o cascabelito Art 7.00 Orquídea blanca Orn 7.20
Laurel Cond, Med 6.90 Orquídea calavera Orn 7.20
Begonia Orn 6.80 Orquídea zapatito Orn 7.20
Chamalillo Orn 6.80 Chipús Med 7.10
Orégano hoja chica Cond, Med 6.80 Cuasia Med 6.90
Papaya cimarrona Alim 6.80 Toloache Tox 6.90
Anonilla Art 6.60 Tejocote cimarrón Alim, Med 6.60
Hueso de tigre Const 6.60 Siete negritos Med 6.50
San Pedro o tronadora Art, Orn 6.60
Aguacatillo Med, Comb 6.50
Mora Const, C 6.50
Malva babosa Comb, Const, Med 6.40
Epazote Cond 6.20
Pasionaria Med 6.20
Encino roble ó rojo Med 5.90
Guajillo o tepehuaje Comb, Alim 5.90
Huizache Comb, Mel 5.90
Orcajuda Mag-Rel, Med 5.70
Pino tecatón Comb, Const 5.70
Alamillo Const, Orn, Med 5.60
Quelite blanco Alim 5.40
Quelite morado Alim 5.40
Cedro rojo Const, Art 5.30
Injerto rojo Comb, Art, Const, Med, Alim Med 5.30
Encino blanco 5.20
Té huasteco Med 5.20

Wild plants of minimal socioeconomic importance. They are shown in Table 11, with some standing out like epazote (Teloxys ambrosioides (L.) W.A. Weber) and juanjilón (Pseudobombax ellipticum (Kunth) Dugand), which are used as condiment and for food, as well as species of venadilla or tepehua (Porophyllum macrocephalum DC. and Porophyllum ruderale (Jacq.) Cass.). There is special interest in reproducing in nurseries the patula or nylon pine (Pinus patula Schltdl. & Cham.) for their sale to the public and for reforestation. For San José, there were no taxa considered in this category.

Table 11 Wild plant species of low socioeconomic importance in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima
Especie Categoría de uso Valoración Socio-económica
Pino nylon o triste Aserr, Constr, Orn, Comb 4.90
Quelite blanco o Quintonil Alim 4.90
Verdolaga Alim 4.90
Talayote Alim 4.80
Ojite Alim 4.70
Muicle Med 4.60
Jabonero o Cóngora Alim 4.40
Nuez encarcelada Art 4.40
Juanjilón Alim, Orn 4.30
Zarzaparrilla Med 4.30
Berro Alim 4.20
Palo bolero o amarillo Comb 3.70
Limoncillo Art 3.50
Venadilla o tepehua Alim 3.50
Venadilla o tepehua morada Alim 3.50

Ecological valuation of wild species

Wild species with high ecological valuation. Table 12 shows the useful wild species with highest probability of increasing their populations, with the following standing out: wild blackberries (Rubus coriifolius Liebm. and Rubus sapidus Schltdl.), wild grapes (Vitis cinerea (Engelm.) Millardet and Vitis tiliifolia Humb. & Bonpl. ex Schult.), magnolia (Magnolia tamaulipana A. Vázquez), alamillo (Liquidambar styraciflua L.) and palmilla (Chamaedorea radicalis Mart.). It should be noted that these are all characteristic plants of the cloud forest in the RBEC.

Table 12 Wild plant species with highest probability of increasing their populations in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima San José
Especie Categoría de uso Valoración ecológica Especie Categoría de uso Valoración ecológica
Árnica Med 10.00 Anisillo B 10.00
Cordoncillo Mag-Rel, Med 10.00 Berro Alim 10.00
Coyolillo Art, Orn 10.00 Quelite blanco o Quintonil Alim 10.00
Cuchillitos o patol Alim, Art, C 10.00 Quelite morado Alim 10.00
Encino blanco Comb, Art, Const, Med, Alim 10.00 Quelite de pata roja Alim 10.00
Encino roble o rojo Med 10.00 Verdolaga Alim 10.00
Guaco Med, Mag-Rel 10.00 Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B 10.00
Guajillo o tepehuaje Comb, Alim 10.00 Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B 10.00
Injerto rojo Med 10.00 Hierba del golpe Med 9.80
Malva babosa Comb, Const, Med 10.00 Uva de monte Alim, B 9.80
Maravilla Orn 10.00 Uva de monte Alim, B 9.80
Muicle Med, Orn 10.00 Hierba del burro Med 9.60
Papayilla Med 10.00 Paxtle Orn 9.60
Pata de vaca Alim, Comb 10.00 Rejalgar u Oreja de elefante Orn, Alim 9.60
Quelite blanco Alim 10.00 Anonilla Art 9.60
Quelite blanco o Quintonil Alim 10.00 Aguacatillo Med, Comb 9.40
Rejalgar u Oreja de elefante Alim, Orn 10.00 Alamillo Const, Orn, Med 9.20
Talayote Alim 10.00 Begonia Orn 9.20
Té huasteco Med 10.00 Capulín o piste Comb, Med 9.20
Capulín o piste Comb, Med 9.80 Dalia silvestre Orn 9.20
Tres hojitas Med, Orn 9.80 Jabonero o cóngora Alim 9.20
Pasionaria Med 9.60 Mala mujer Alim 9.20
Palo de agua 9.40 Pata de vaca Alim, Comb 9.20
Magnolia Orn, Med, Aserr 9.00 Encino blanco Comb, Art, Const, Med, Alim 9.00
Tostada de caballo Orn 8.80 Encino roble o rojo Med 9.00
Alamillo Const, Orn, Med 8.60 Guajillo o tepehuaje Comb, Alim 9.00
Berro Alim 8.60 Laurel Cond, B 9.00
Epazote Cond, Med 8.60 Palmilla Orn 9.00
Palmilla Orn 8.60 Pino nylon ó triste Const, Orn 9.00
Papaya cimarrona Alim 8.60 Pino tecatón Comb, Const 9.00
Venadilla o tepehua Alim 8.60 Chipús Med 8.80
Venadilla o tepehua morada Alim 8.60 Cigarrilla Med 8.80
Jabonero o cóngora Alim 8.40 Gallitos Alim 8.80
Juanjilón o macoque Alim, Orn 8.40 Orcajuda Mag-Rel, Med 8.80
Aguacatillo Med, Comb 8.30 Trompillo Med 8.80
Zarzaparrilla Art 8.20 Aquiche o guácima Alim, Med 8.80
Moquito Orn 8.20
Pagüilla Const, Comb 8.20
Palo bolero o amarillo Comb, Constr 8.20
Pohua Const, Art 8.20
Tila Med 8.20
Toloache Tox 8.20

Wild plants of medium ecological valuation. Table 13 shows the wild plant species of regular abundance and with medium opportunities of increasing their populations in the communities of study, among others, orchids (Euchile mariae (Ames) Withner, Stanhopea tigrina Bateman ex Lindl., Isochilus unilateralis B.L. Rob., Prostechea cochleata (L.) W.E. Higgins and Lycaste deppei (Lodd.) Lindl.), tejocote cimarrón (Crataegus rosei Eggl.), berry (Maclura tinctoria (L.) D. Don ex Steud.), and red cedar (Cedrela odorata L.).

Table 13 Wild plant species of regular abundance and with medium opportunities of increasing their populations in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima San José
Especie Categoría de Uso Valoración ecológica Especie Categoría de Uso Valoración ecológica
Naranjillo Mag-Rel, Const 7.80 Magnolia Med, Orn, Aserr 7.80
Pino tecatón Comb, Const 7.80 Oyamel Orn, Const 7.80
Tila Med 7.60 Cedro chino Orn 7.60
Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B 7.60 Cuasia Med 7.60
Zarzamora silvestre Alim, B 7.60 Romerillo Orn 7.60
Orquídea blanca Orn 7.40 Siete negritos Med 7.60
Orquídea calavera Orn 7.40 Mora Const, C 7.20
Orquídea negra Orn 7.40 Tejocote cimarrón Alim 6.80
Orquídea zapatito Orn 7.40 Cedro rojo Const, Art 6.40
Mora Const, C 7.20 Nogal cimarrón Alim, Med, Constr, Art 6.40
Pino nylon o triste Const, Orn 7.20 Orquídea blanca Orn 5.80
Pohua Const, Art 7.20 Orquídea calavera Orn 5.80
San Pedro o tronadora Art, Orn 7.20 Orquídea zapatito Orn 5.80
Trompillo Med 7.20
Uva de monte 1 Alim, B 7.20
Uva de monte 1 Alim, B 7.20
Pagüilla Med 7.00
Tejocote cimarrón Alim 6.80
Begonia Orn 6.20
Laurel Cond, B 5.80

Wild plants with low ecological valuation. Table 14 shows the wild plant species that are scarce or threatened; among others, romerillo (Taxus globosa Schltdl.), chamalillo (Ceratozamia kuesteriana Regel), monilla or cascabelito (Ungnadia speciosa Endl.), jacubo (Acanthocereus tetragonus (L.) Hummelinck), and hueso de tigre (Wimmeria concolor Schltdl. & Cham.). For San José, no taxa were considered in this category.

Table 14 Scarce or threatened wild plant species in the communities of study. 

Alta Cima
Especie Categoría de uso Valoración ecológica
Huizache Comb, Mel 4.80
Romerillo Orn 4.80
Verdolaga Alim 4.80
Chamalillo Orn 4.40
Monilla o cascabelito Art 4.00
Cedro chino Orn 3.80
Anonilla Art 3.60
Orégano de hoja chica Cond, Med 3.60
Limoncillo Art 3.20
Jaboncillo Art 3.00
Mora Const, C 3.00
Jacubo Alim 2.80
Nuez encarcelada Art 2.80
Ojite Alim 2.80
Palo bolero Comb, Constr 2.80
Cedro rojo Const, Art 2.40
Hueso de tigre Const, C 2.20

Some authors have shown that the status of species conservation is prioritized based on the daily management and interaction of local people with the useful species (Pardo de Santayana and Gómez-Peyón, 2003; Paule and Potvin, 2004; Paredes et al., 2007). Results show that the vegetation provides these communities mainly with basic products (food, medicine and beverages) and for sale (handicrafts and ornamental plants). The use values (VU, for initials in Spanish) show the preference of interview respondents for useful plants in the communities studied, but they are not necessarily related to the importance that these have, as was observed when making the participative socioeconomic and ecological evaluation. The group of plants with the highest socioeconomic value for the inhabitants of the communities of study is integrated, specifically, by five plant species that are vital for their economy and their subsistence in the RBEC. They are: palmilla (Chamaedorea radicalis Mart.), two species of wild blackberries (Rubus coriifolius Liebm. and Rubus sapidus Schltdl.) and two species of wild grapes (Vitis cinerea (Engelm.) Millardet and V. tiliifolia Humb. & Bonpl. ex Roem. & Schult.), and among them there are those that have more possibilities for conservation and recuperation in the perception of local inhabitants. There are also others that are considered apt to be reproduced in community nurseries (for reforestation or sale to the public), such as magnolia (Magnolia tamaulipana A. Vázquez), berry (Maclura tinctoria (L.) D. Don ex Steud.), sacred fir (Abies vejari Martínez), patula or nylon pine (Pinus patula Schltdl. & Cham.) and smooth-bark Mexican pine (Pinus pseudostrobus Lindl.), given their natural scarcity in the zone and/or the probabilities of commercialization as a live plant. Other species of medium and low socioeconomic importance include species with potential in the future, such as jacubo (Acanthocereus tetragonus (L.) Hummelinck), red cedar (Cedrela odorata L.), smooth-bark Mexican pine (Pinus pseudostrobus Lindl.) and patula or nylon pine (Pinus patula Schltdl. & Cham.), which have scarce populations naturally but good opportunities to increase their populations.

There is a marked interest in cultivating intensively some species such as red cedar and wild blackberries, or reproducing in nursery (reforestation or sale to the public) species like magnolia (Magnolia tamaulipana Vázquez), smooth-bark Mexican pine and patula pine. It should be noted that a higher percentage of taxa used as food were identified in San José, especially “quelites”, than in Alta Cima; this can be attributed not only to the fact that it is a more remote community, but also to the ethnic origin of its inhabitants (native and/or descendants of migrants from the states of Michoacán and Estado de México). However, these results can also be attributable to restrictions in the exploitation of timber-yielding and fuel species that were traditionally used and that the local inhabitants knew about (which was the reason of their arrival in the zone), and because there are not roads that are passable all year long, forcing the inhabitants of the RBEC to make a more intensive exploitation of the available and legally allowed resources in the RBEC, particularly non-timber species. This necessarily implies resorting to a higher number of plant species, both for subsistence and for sale, for example for food, to make handcrafts, ornamentals, and for beverages with high demand among visitors to the reserve.

The geographic location of the populations, nestled in a mountainous zone, allows their inhabitants a very close relationship with the surrounding vegetation, since these plants constitute a natural source of staple products, for subsistence, and for the elaboration of products that generate cash income. This generates, in turn, a demand such that can consume any amount of these resources as it is possible to collect in the zone. This condition contributed, to a large extent, to inhabitants participating actively in this study and showing an interest in the development of management programs for those species, with the expectation of attaining socioeconomic benefits. González-Loera and López-Velázquez (1991) mention the medicinal and food species, together with fuel and fodder, as priority in ethnobotanical research in Mexico. However, the fact of identifying few fuel, fodder and timber species in the communities of study can be consequence of the restrictions that were established since the area was declared as protected, as was mentioned earlier. These data agree with the conclusions reached by Hernández-Sandoval et al. (1991) and Luna et al. (2003) in the sense that it is not the diversity, but rather the socioeconomic and cultural factors, which determine the priority in the use of plants. According to Ticktin et al. (2002), a higher socioeconomic importance attributed locally to a plant is a desirable condition to promote management and conservation programs in the communities.

Therefore, in the communities of study it is possible to incorporate the information obtained in this study in the design of strategies for conservation and sustained management of the vegetation, based on the understanding and importance that local people grant the species (Rivera et al., 2007; Del Amo et al., 2010a). For this purpose, these authors suggest an alternative model of conservation and sustainable development that they have called “biocultural model of resource management”, based on: (1) A reciprocal and integrating dialogue that fosters collective knowledge and citizen participation in planning processes; and (2) The “productive ecological restoration or ethnorestoration” which implies the reduction of anthropogenic disturbances, elimination of exotic species, rehabilitation of soils and waters, remediation of soil pollution, and reintroduction of native species (Del Amo et al., 2010b).

With this study, we have advanced towards the understanding of priority useful species for the inhabitants of the cloud forest of the RBEC, although this does not reflect the totality of their functional potential. However, it will be convenient to corroborate in the field their relevance through concrete measurements, mostly to calculate the natural current offer of the products that can be derived from them, and to implement plans for rational exploitation of the species identified as priority, fact that other researchers have also suggested, such as Pérez-Quilantán et al. (2005) for the RBEC, Martínez-Pérez et al. (2012) for the Mixteca Poblana region and Villavicencio and Pérez-Escandón (2014) for the Huasteca Hidalguense region.

Conclusions

The results show that the cloud forest vegetation in the RBEC supplies local inhabitants mainly with basic products (food, medicine and beverage), and for sale (ornamentals and handcrafts). Although these are two communities located at different elevation and with different ethnic composition, the level of ethnobotanical knowledge of local inhabitants is similar. The maximum and minimum values in each locality and the average values are similar, and there are no significant differences, which is why the hypothesis set out is rejected.

All (100 %) of the interview respondents could recognize between 20 and 38 % of the useful plants found in both communities (156 taxa), evidencing a great ethnobotanical understanding due to a high dispersion of knowledge.

The socioeconomic factors are determinant in the exploitation of the vegetation, as was confirmed by the results in this study.

The categories identified by the inhabitants of the communities of study, as well as the species recognized by them, show that the wild plant diversity in the communities is, primarily, source of food, artisanal, ornamental and medicinal products. The group of plants of highest socioeconomic value is made up of five plant species that are vital for the economy and subsistence in the RBEC: palmilla (Chamaedorea radicalis Mart.), wild blackberries (Rubus sapidus Schltdl. and Rubus coriifolius Liebm.) and wild grapes (Vitis cinerea (Engelm.) Millardet and Vitis tiliifolia Humb. & Bonpl. ex Schult.).

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1Most of the male inhabitants, and some women, from the communities of study consider themselves to be “palmilleros” (palmilla collectors).

Received: May 01, 2015; Accepted: March 01, 2017

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