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Semi-wild palm groves reveal agricultural change in the forest region of Guinea

Madelaine C., Malézieux E., Sibelet N., Manlay R.. 2008. AgroForestry Systems, 73 (3) : p. 189-204.

In West Africa, natural regeneration of oil palms (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) can be favoured by agricultural practices. The structure of palm groves may thus reflect the history of land use. In this study, we examined the connection between biophysical factors, land use and the structure and dynamics of semi-wild palm groves in the village of Nienh, in the forest region of Guinea (Forest Guinea), in order to determine to what extent semi-wild palm groves could be considered as an ecological indicator of the history of regional landscapes. Grove management strategies of farmers were also determined and related to farm characteristics. In Nienh, semi-wild palm groves were found in three cropping systems with differing characteristics in each. Palms were scarce in lowland agricultural areas (8 palms ha-1), while they were significantly taller (15.8 m on average) and less dense (36 palms ha-1) in agroforests than in slash-and-burn cropping systems (9.4 m and 55 palms ha-1 respectively). Interviews with farmers showed that it was possible for a farmer to have a global strategy of semi-wild palm grove densification combined with oil palm elimination on a plot scale. The lack of regeneration of palms in agroforests resulted from the almost systematic elimination of young palms by farmers. Conversely, in slash-and-burn cropping systems, young palms were often preserved. As the structure of semi-wild palm groves was partly explained by agricultural practices, it could be used as an ecological indicator of changes in practice in relation to socio-economic context. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : forêt; Écologie; organisme indicateur; changement technologique; pratique culturale; agroforesterie; régénération naturelle; elaeis guineensis; afrique occidentale; guinée

Thématique : Systèmes et modes de culture; Ecologie végétale; Production forestière

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