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Sustainability of Mangrove Harvesting: How do Harvesters’ Perceptions Differ from Ecological Analysis?

Laura López-Hoffman, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Ian E. Monroe, Winrock International
Enrique Narváez, Instituto para la Conservación del Lago de Maracaibo
Miguel Martínez-Ramos, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
David D. Ackerly, University of California at Berkeley

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Abstract

To harvest biological resources sustainably, it is first necessary to understand what “sustainability” means in an ecological context, and what it means to the people who use the resources. As a case study, we examined the extractive logging of the mangrove Rhizophora mangle in the Río Limón area of Lake Maracaibo, in western Venezuela. The ecological definition of sustainable harvesting is harvesting that allows population numbers to be maintained or to increase over time. In interviews, the harvesters defined sustainable harvesting as levels permitting the maintenance of the mangrove population over two human generations, about 50 yr. In Río Limón, harvesters extract a combination of small adult and juvenile trees. Harvesting rates ranged from 7–35% of small adult trees. These harvesting levels would be sustainable according to the harvester's definition as long as juvenile harvesting was less than 40%. However, some harvesting levels that would be sustainable according to the harvesters were ecologically unsustainable, i.e., eventually causing declines in mangrove population numbers. It was also determined that the structure of mangrove forests was significantly affected by harvesting; even areas harvested at low, ecologically sustainable intensities had significantly fewer adult trees than undisturbed sites. Western Venezuela has no organized timber industry, so mangrove logs are used in many types of construction. A lagging economy and a lack of alternative construction materials make mangrove harvesting inevitable, and for local people, an economic necessity. This creates a trade-off between preserving the ecological characteristics of the mangrove population and responding to human needs. In order to resolve this situation, we recommended a limited and adaptive mangrove harvesting regime. We also suggest that harvesters could participate in community-based management programs as harvesting monitors.

Key words

conservation; tropical forest; sustainable management; Venezuela.
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087