Tag Archives: Brosimum alicastrum

Reforestation in Haiti, the value of botanical knowledge

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Sadhana Forest Haiti staff and volunteers planting Brosimum alicastrum seedlings in the compound of an Anse-a-Pitre smallholder

Haiti is infamous for extensive deforestation, less tha 4% of its original forest cover remains, which in addition to threatening many of its endemic trees with extinction has also increased the destructive impact of natural disasters of which there have been several in the last couple of decades. Deforestation is widely recognized as a significant threat to the well-being and security of Haitians and as a consequence many projects have been set up to plant trees, some more successful than others. Probably the biggest challenge to reforestation is to ensure that the communities involved are engaged and that they feel that the benefits of protecting and looking after a tree outweigh the sacrifice involved in not converting it to charcoal for cooking. Charcoal is the main fuel in rural areas and demand for it is high, a small bucket costing up to US$2 leading people to burn cacti to produce it. One NGO which seems to have been successful in engaging rural communities to grow and protect useful tree species has been Sadhana Forest Haiti

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5 litre containers of charcoal can be found at most local shops. Charcoal is produced from local trees and represents the main source of fuel for cooking and so essential.

One of the difficulties for NGOs reforesting in any country is access to the scientific information necessary to make choices about what is grown: will a species grow in the chosen sites? How quickly will it grow? Will local people recognise it as a species of value to be protected? Will it support livelihoods? Where can seed be obtained from? How does it germinate? Is it native? What is its conservation value? This information can be tricky to get hold of, especially in countries with little botanical capacity or knowledge repositories. Often the result is that the species selected are those for which seed can be obtained and that are very well known to be of livelihood value, normally non-native species such as avocado, mango, eucalyptus of little conservation or biodiversity value but highly recognizable. Some native and especially endemic species for which knowledge of livelihood value is likely to be restricted to older members of a community or a small number of botanists and whose propagation and germination requirements are less well known will be harder for NGOs to incorporate.

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Sadhana’s community liaison officer, Nixon Casseus, discussing fruiting of a 4 year-old Brosimum alicastrum with the owner of a small-holding who has been looking after the tree

RBG Kew has been working in neighboring Dominincan Republic for several years and has developed a strong relationship with the Dr. Rafael Moscoso National Botanical Garden, an institution with an active botanical community and seed bank. This represents an opportunity to share some of the knowledge and expertise on additional potential native plants with Sadhana Forest and the households that they work with. To this end I spent a few days visiting Sadhana Forest Haiti and some of the households. I was struck with the commitment and planning behind Sadhana Forest, who with few resources have provided several thousand seedlings to thousands of households in a region spanning Haiti’s south eastern border with the Dominican Republic. Hopefully, in collaboration with the Dr. Rafael Moscoso National Botanical Garden and Kew we will be able to introduce more native species of livelihood value to be planted in the future.

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The Sadhana Forest compound at Anse-a-Pitre, Haiti.
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Almacenamiento de semillas de Brosimum alicastrum (Ojushte, Rámon, Capomo)

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Frutos fresco de Brosimum alicastrum

Como parte de un proyecto financiado por la Iniciativa Darwin (18-010) para apoyar la recolección sostenible de Brosimum alicastrum tuvimos la suerte de trabajar con un equipo del Millennium Seed Bank de RBG Kew.  Anaïte López del Instituto Nacional de Bosques de Guatemala pasó un mes en el banco de semillas trabajando con Tim Marks, Wolfgang Stuppy y Louise Colville bajo la dirección de Hugh Pritchard, el jefe de investigación de semillas. Brosimum alicastrum es difícil de almacenar y esto ha impactado sobre su uso en reforestation en América Central. El equipo del banco de semillas emprendió una serie de experimentos para identificar las condiciones óptimas para el almacenamiento. La investigación involucró a varias conclusiones nuevas y emocionantes que estamos en proceso de publicar. Afortunadamente también identificó las condiciones que soportan almacenamiento de hasta un año.

Las condiciones óptimas de almacenamiento consisten en el mantenimiento de la semilla a 15 ° C y un límite superior de humedad del 75% RH. Sorprendentemente humedad puede ser mucho más baja sin afectar a la viabilidad de la semilla. El almacenamiento a 15 ° C impide la germinación y el daño que ocurre frío abajo de los 10 ° C, donde la posterior fuga de electrolitos anima a daños por hongos durante la fase de germinación.

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Sección a través de una semilla de Brosimum alicastrum fresco realizado por Wolfgang Stuppy del Millennium Seed Bank, Kew

 

Seed storage protocol for Brosimum alicastrum (Ojushte, Rámon, Breadnut, Maya Nut)

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As part of  Darwin Initiative grant (18-010) to support the sustainable harvesting of Brosimum alicastrum we were very fortunate in working with a team from the Millennium Seed Bank of RBG Kew. Anaíte López from the Instituto Nacional de Bosques in Guatemala spent one month at the Seed Bank working with Tim Marks, Wolfgang Stuppy and Louise Colville under the guidance of Hugh Pritchard, the head of seed research. Brosimum alicastrum is difficult to store and this has had an affect on its use in reforestation in Central America. The team at the Seed Bank undertook a range of experiments to identify the optimal conditions for storage. The research involved several new and exciting findings which we are in the process of publishing. Fortunately it also identified conditions which support storage for up to a year.

Optimal storage conditions consist of maintaining seed at 15°C and upper limit of humidity of 75% RH. Surprisingly humidity can be much lower without impacting on seed viability. Storage at 15°C  prevents most of the in-storage germination seen at higher temperatures, and the chill damage occurring at 10°C or below, where subsequent electrolyte leakage encourages fungal damage during germination phase.

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Section through fresh Brosimum alicastrum seed undertaken by Wolfgang Stuppy of the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew

 

Zonas de transferencia para Brosimum alicastrum en América Central

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Zonas de transferencia recomendadas. Al restringir el movimiento de las plántulas o semillas a dentro de cada zona no debería haber ninguna erosión de la diversidad genética de Brosimum alicastrum. Imagen hecho por Tonya Lander

Como parte de un proyecto de la Iniciativa Darwin del Gobierno del Reino Unido (# 18-010) hemos recibido fundos para proporcionar herramientas de apoyo a la reforestación sostenible con Brosimum alicastrum. Brosimum alicastrum, conocido como Ramón,  ojoche, ojite, ojushte, ujushte, ujuxte, capomo, mojo, ox, iximche, masica, uje o mojote, es un árbol común en América Central, y es bastante utilizado para reforestación. El objetivo de nuestro trabajo era de proteger la diversidad genética de la especie y el carácter distintivo genética de las regiones, mientras que al mismo tiempo permitir que sea utilizado en reforestación y restauración. Para esto hemos realizado un estudio genética de la especie a través de su rango de distribución con especial énfasis en América Central, donde la especie es más común y donde la demanda de su uso en la reforestación es mayor.

Tonya Lander analizo los datos genéticos y con el uso de técnicas estadísticas pudo identificar áreas que eran genéticamente distintas unas de otras. Estos se caracterizan por líneas negras gruesas en el mapa de arriba. Le recomendamos que las semillas y plantas no se mueve de un área o zona a otra. Si se mueven de una zona a otra, una vez que alcanzan madurarse,  comienzan a liberar polen y producir frutos, lo que erosionará el carácter distintivo genético de esta zona. Afortunadamente, dado el tamaño de las zonas que hemos delimitado no debería afectar en gran medida la reforestación con Brosimum alicastrum en América Central.

Las zonas identifacad son:
1) México, Guatemala, Belice, El Salvador, Honduras & Nicaragua,
2) Costa Rica, Panamá y Colombia,
3) Las Antillas,
4) América do Sur excluyendo a Colombia.

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Frutos de Brosimum alicastrum con la semilla saliendo. Normalmente pájaros y murcielogos comen la parte verde y solo cae las semillas por el suelo

 

 

Seed transfer zones for Brosimum alicastrum in Central America

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Recommended seed transfer zones. By restricting the movement of seedlings or seed for restoration to within each zone there should be no erosion of Brosimum alicastrum’s genetic diversity. Image: Tonya Lander

As part of a recent grant from the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative (#18-010)  to provide tools to support sustainable reforestation with Brosimum alicastrum, a common tree in Central America, we have identified safe zones for seed and seedling transplantation. The aim is to protect the genetic diversity  of the species and the genetic distinctiveness of the regions whilst at the same time allowing it to be used in reforestation and restoration. To do so we undertook a genetic survey of the species across it’s range but with special emphasis on Central America where the species is most common and where demand for its use in reforestation is greatest.

Tonya Lander analysed the genetic data and using statistical techniques identified areas that were genetically distinct from each other. These are marked by thick black lines on the map above. We recommend that seeds and seedlings are not be moved from one area or zone to the next. If they are moved from one zone to the next, then once they reach maturity and begin to release pollen and produce fruits, this will erode the genetic distinctiveness of this area. Fortunately given the size of the zones this should not greatly impact ongoing reforestation in Central America.

The zones identified comprise:
1) Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras & Nicaragua,
2) Costa Rica, Panama & Colombia,
3) the Greater Antilles, and
4) South America excluding Colombia.

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Fruits of Brosimum alicastrum showing the green fleshy sweet skin. Usually birds and bats eat the flesh whilst the fruit is on the tree causing the slippery seed to fall to the ground

 

‘Win-win-wins in conservation: presentation at UNESCO ‘Botanists of the 21st C’ Conference

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Brosimum alicastrum fruits with the fleshy skin that is consumed by bats and birds, and showing the large seed that drops to the forest floor where it can be harvested. Image by Erika Vohman.

I have been very lucky to present some of the work that Tonya Lander at Oxford University and I have been working on at the UNESCO ‘Botanists of the 21st C’ Conference in Paris. The work builds on a project whose aim was to provide scientific tools for the sustainable harvesting of the underutilized crop and tropical forest tree, Brosimum alicastrum that Tonya and myself undertook in association with the Maya Nut Institute and which was funded by the Darwin Initiative. Tonya and colleagues at Exeter and Oxford University developed a clever way of using investment risk data to help prioritise conservation actions. The basis of this was to use investment risk ratings as a surrogate for the risk of a conservation action failing because of corruption, lack of government infrastructure or capacity

Click here to see a pdf of the slides and notes

September 22, 11 am. Venue: Room IV, UNESCO Headquarters, 7 Place de Fontenoy, Paris, 75007, France

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Rural community dweller rinsing Brosimum alicastrum seeds collected from the forest floor. Image by Erika Vohman.

Two exciting seminars on Maya Nut tree at Kew

Participants on one of many Maya Nut capacity building courses funded by the Darwin Initiative. This one was at Versailles, Chichigalpa, in Nicaragua. Image: Erika Vohman, Maya Nut Institute

On the 24th and 25th of April Erika Vohman (CEO of the Maya Nut Institute) and Mike Rowley a grad student at the University of Bournemouth gave two great talks at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and its subsidiary, the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in Sussex. Erika spoke about our Darwin Initiative project with the tropical tree Brosimum alicastrum or Maya Nut which finished last month within the context of focusing sustainable development projects in Central America on women and markets.

The slide above shows the role of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) and livelihoods in the sustainable use and conservation of forests in Central America. Our project invested in workshops and the generation of knowledge to support its sustainable use.

Continue reading Two exciting seminars on Maya Nut tree at Kew

Seminar at Kew by Mike Rowley: tropical tree converts atmospheric CO2 into mineralized carbonate

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Calcium carbonate (limestone) deposits believed to originate from Brosimum alicastrum (Maya Nut) root-microbe interactions. If confirmed this would be the first tree that has been shown to do so.

At 3 pm on April 24 at the Royal Botanic Gardens, in the Jodrell Seminar Room, Mike Rowley, postgraduate student at Bournemouth University will be giving a seminar in which he proposes that the tropical tree Brosimum alicastrum could be one of the first tree species demonstrated to convert atmospheric CO2 into mineralized carbonate that is deposited in the soil. This could be an exciting discovery as such mineralized carbon in the form of carbonate remains stored inertly  for ca. x 1000 longer than organically sequestered carbon and so could represent a novel approach to carbon sequestration. Mike will present the evidence and mechanisms for this biomineralization to occur. The seminar will take place in the Jodrell Seminar Room at 3 pm. Entry is free but please contact Alex Monro via this post beforehand. See directions below:

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Seminar Announcement: Livelihood and conservation value of Maya Nut in Central America

The Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst Place, Sussez
The Seminar will be held in the Millennium Seed Bank Seminar Room. Directions to the Seed Bank can be found here: http://www.kew.org/visit-wakehurst/plan/getting-here

On April 25 2014, at 11 am in the Millennium Seed Bank Seminar Room Wakehurst Place,  Erika Vohman of the Maya Nut Institute will give a seminar entitled ‘Livelihood and conservation value of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) in Central America’, Erika Vohman. Erika has been working with Brosimum alicastrum for over a decade and is founder of the US NGO, the May Nut Institute whose mission is to find a balance between people, food and forests by teaching rural communities about the value of Maya Nut for food, fodder, ecosystem services and income. Directions to the Seed Bank can be found by clicking on this link.

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Brosimum alicastrum fruits, known as Maya Nuts in the US

Brosimum alicastrum is one of the most widespread and common species in evergreen and semi-evergreen tropical forests in Mexico and northern Central America. It is recognized as a famine food, fodder crop, timber and fuelwood. Also as a key species for reforestation in Central America. Examples of ongoing reforestation include the ‘Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests’ program in Guatemala and Nicaragua (150,000 trees respectively), the ‘Programa Reverdecer’ (Re-greening) in Guatemala (50,000 trees) and the Ecological Ranching Program in Guatemala (300,000 trees) and Restoration of Lake Peten-Itza Watershed (600 ha of trees planted).

In Honduras Maya Nut harvest can generate $650 per ha per annum compared to $326 for a combined maize and beans production system. Erika has been working with Alex Monro (The Natural History Museum / RBG Kew) on a Darwin Initiative funded project ‘Tools for the sustainable harvesting of Maya Nut (Mesoamerica) 18-010’ which finished in March 2014. Erika will talk about her work and in particular her strategy for market-driven community based conservation, improving women’s participation in conservation and Maya Nut restoration and reforestation in the Neotropics. Erika’s talk should last for 30-45 minutes.

Continue reading Seminar Announcement: Livelihood and conservation value of Maya Nut in Central America

Maya Nut: not just an ordinary fruit (or nut)

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A ripe Maya Nut fruit, the sweet fleshy green outer layer of the fruit is consumed by bats, birds and monkeys leaving the intact seed to fall to the forest floor.

Our recent findings have lead us to develop a protocol which enables the storage of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) seed for several months. As part of this we asked Wolfgang Stuppy from the Millennium Seed Bank to have a look at the anatomy of the fruit and seed to see whether we could get any insights into why it behaves as it does. As part of this work he came across some very interesting facts about the fruit and seed. Continue reading Maya Nut: not just an ordinary fruit (or nut)