To improve the scientific understanding of the complexity of extraction, trade and commercialization of natural products from intact and disturbed ecosystems, and in particular of palm resources from the tropical forests of northwestern South America.
Two PALMS WPs investigate the responses of the vegetation to disturbance applying palms as indicators of diversity (WP1) and resilience (WP2); and two study local uses of palms (WP3) and trade in palm products (WP4). The combination of the resulting four data-sets will make it possible to estimate demands for products and impacts at ecosystems, and extrapolate these data spatially and temporally. Application of standardized research protocols in different settings and focusing on a manageable but important variation of species and forest products; will also provide important inputs to ongoing debates about ecosystem degradation, and the value of forest extracted products and their potential to contribute to development and poverty alleviation. The causal relationships between decreasing ecosystem diversity and reduced resilience and ultimately regime shift are much discussed. Palms may be optimal for investigating factors determining ecosystem responses to disturbance, because many locally abundant palms are key-stone species crucial for ecosystem functioning, e.g., by being the main food source for important fauna species. Estimates of the value that forest products, including subsistence uses, represent for local communities have fluctuated widely. Comparable data-sets from a variation of settings may provide much needed clarity. A related debate concerns the potential of (extracted) forest products to contribute to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Some, are pessimistic, but others emphasize and describe positive examples and scenarios.