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Habitat specificity and temporal trends in harvesting of medicinal herbs in the Wayne National Forest (Ohio, USA).
Albrecht, Matthew*,1, McCarthy, Brian1, 1 Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, United States
ABSTRACT- The burgeoning demand for wild harvested herb products has exerted considerable pressure on deciduous forest plant populations. Since effective conservation and management strategies are constrained by the lack of baseline ecological information, we employed a strip transect sampling scheme to describe the distribution patterns of economically important forest herbs in the Wayne National Forest (WNF). This study also examined temporal variation in medicinal plant harvesting by evaluating plant collection permit data over a six-year period (1995-2001). Our permit analysis revealed a linear increase in the frequency of harvesting black cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis L.) and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides L. Michx.) (P < 0.001). Overall, the total number of plant collection permits issued in the 2001 harvesting season increased by 180% when compared to the 1995 harvesting. Our sampling scheme found that American ginseng (Panax quinqefolius L.) and Virgninia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria L.) were rare, but broadly distributed in a variety of microhabitats. Slope aspect was a significant predictor of black cohosh occurrence (P < 0.05). The frequency of blue cohosh was greater on north facing aspects than east facing aspects (P < 0.05). Forest stands designated as protected natural areas, did not harbor greater medicinal herb abundance than unprotected areas (P > 0.05). Our study suggests that the patchy distribution and high interspecific variation in habitat specificity complicates the efficient management and sustainable harvest of key non-timber forest resources. Projecting our plant collection permit analysis into the future indicates that immediate action should be taken to develop ecologically based sustainable models to prevent overharvesting.
Key words: forest herbs, forest management, wild harvested plants, medicinal plants