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Assumptions or external factors that may determine success

It is an assumption that political stability of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador is maintained, and that the conflict in Colombia shall not seriously hamper fieldwork in that country. Colombian scientists, including the PALMS participants, have, during decades of intern conflict, continued an active research program in the safer parts of the country. European project partners will limit their fieldwork to the other three countries.

Partners from Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador will also conduct fieldwork in Colombia, but always accompanied by national counterparts. It is assumed that the maintenance of good relations to local people in project areas, which has been established during previous fieldwork, continues throughout the project. Without local peoples’ acceptance some of the project components cannot be carried out. In order to ensure a good contact the Latin American scientists will select core areas that are well known to them and we will make an effort to assure that all partners approach the local societies an appropriate manner.

How other relevant research activities are taken in consideration

The research laboratories involved are centers of activity for natural resource studies with broad contacts to a broad selection of researchers who work in the area. The herbaria in La Paz, Lima, Quito and Bogotá are visited by national and foreign scientists, who often use it as the local research bases for their projects. This secures contacts to a very large section of potentially interesting and related research projects.

This projects web-page will be another point of contact to other relevant researchers, projects and institutions. Several projects in each of the northwestern South American countries are relevant to the project proposed here, and only examples can be mentioned. In Colombia a palm conservation project is very relevant for the present project, and the two projects will exchange information and coordinate activities. In Ecuador the PALMS project is related to a project entitled Plantas útiles del Ecuador and the two projects will be coordinated through personal contacts. In Peru, IRD is involved in several activities related to the genetic structure of palm populations and existing institutional and personal contacts will secure that duplications are avoided. In Bolivia a project on Biodiversity of Economically Important Species is related to the activities of Bio-commerce in that country. Both projects will be contacted to secure coordination of activities and avoiding duplication of efforts.

Impact 4

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.

The need for a European approach

Problems related to management of natural resources and their trade and commercialization have both local, national, and regional aspects. Nevertheless, the problems and their solutions do not follow national borders that in northwestern South America do not, by any means, correspond to the delimitation of ecosystems or plant species distributions.

All four countries involved (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) have part of their territories in the western Amazon basin and other parts in the Andean Cordillera, and three of them (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru) have lowlands towards the Pacific Ocean. The Amazonian ecosystems of the countries therefore have much more in common than each of them has with the same countries’ Andean and Pacific ecosystems, etc. Still trade and commercialization tend to follow political rather than ecological frontiers. A regional international approach therefore is more sensible than a national or local approach. Latin American research laboratories’ collaboration with European laboratories improves the research quality and provides opportunities for increased exchange of experiences, access to sophisticated equipment and technical skills related to its use. Furthermore there are long standing traditions for collaboration in the field of natural resources and their management between the involved South American and European laboratories. Many of the South American researchers involved have studied in European laboratories and all the European researchers have collaborated with this project’s South American laboratories in other contexts. The European approach hence, is also a reflection of scientific collaborative links across the Atlantic.

Impact 3

To improve national level policy regarding uses of products harvested from natural populations of plants through analysis of existing policies, and provision of alternative policies to the national bodies that regulate extraction, harvest, trade and commercialization of natural resources and in particular products from palms.

PALMS will specify environmental, social and economical conditions and circumstances favorable for combining sustainable extraction or production of forest or agro-forestry products with local-level development and poverty alleviation. To impact national level policy WP6 will specifically target deeper understanding of mechanisms governing management, trade and commercialization of palm products in northwestern South America. It is anticipated that this research will reveal conditions favorable to sustainable management and to trade and commercialization which represents healthy exploitation of the natural resources, and other mechanisms and activities that are adverse to this. The research will draw conclusion and provide recommendations which will be made available to policy makers in written and other forms, using both formal outlets and informal networks available to the researchers, who are well versed in the political system and governmental level administrations.


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The project is divided into nine specific work packages Read more...