Demand for species with desired traits has in many cases led to diminished wild populations and even localised extinction. The epiphytic medicinal orchid Dendrobium catenatum is no exception. Insatiable market demand for this species has led to rapid decline in wild populations throughout China and neighbouring countries. Moreover, the initiation of mass commercial cultivation has not effectively alleviated the pressure on wild populations because demand is higher for individuals sourced from the wild.
Liu et al. argue for an unconventional introduction approach, in which populations planted in natural forests are allowed to be sustainably harvested (restoration-friendly cultivation). They claim “adding this restoration-friendly cultivation into the current mix of conservation approaches has the potential to turn deeply-entrenched traditional uses of orchids from a conservation challenge to a conservation success”.
The pros and pitfalls of a restoration-friendly cultivation proposal for Dendrobium:
- The epiphytic and lithophytic nature of medicinal Dendrobium species means that they can be reintroduced on tree trunks or bare rocks within natural forests. Plants can be harvested non-destructively (taking older stems that have already flowered and fruited) giving reintroduced individuals a chance to regenerate naturally.
- The proposal promotes the preservation and enhancement of native ecosystems as a viable, profitable alternative to exotic agricultural practices.
- Social benefits include the potential for adoption by marginalised populations of older and female rural residents in orchid hotspots due to non-intensive labour and smaller initial investments. The high market value and non-destructive harvesting technique allows for farmers to gain financial independence even in areas of limited arable land.
Potential pitfalls (which are addressed in the article):
- Inappropriate genetic provenance
- Harmful impact on native ecosystems due to increased cultivation activities
- Costly seedlings and difficulty finding appropriate markets for marginalised rural populations
“Adding restoration friendly cultivation to the current mix of conservation offers a scientific solution to the TCM conservation conflict that not only respects, but takes advantage of, deeply-entrenched traditions. Such a new solution to a persisting conservation issue also holds promise for other regions facing similar species conservation issues.”
Is anyone aware of any research or reviews of a similar nature from a New Zealand perspective that they can share?
Having had the privilege of recently participating a Rongoa Maori course I can think of many examples of how traditional practices would complement conservation and restoration efforts here in New Zealand, are there any good examples you know of that are already taking place?