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Land Use and Biodiversity in Unprotected Landscapes: The Case of Noncultivated Plant Use and Management by Rural Communities in Benin and Togo

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To contribute to the development of strategies for sustainable agricultural land use and biodiversity conservation in landscapes without formal protection status, we investigated the local use and management of noncultivated plants as important ecosystem functions of inland valleys in south Benin and Togo, and local perceptions on changes in plant biodiversity and causes for these changes. Local users of noncultivated plants perceived agriculture and construction as major factors contributing to the reduction of (noncultivated) plant biodiversity. However, they also collect many useful species from agricultural fields and the village. A small community forest reserve and a 2-ha community garden were the only organized forms of conservation management. Observed ad hoc conservation initiatives were selective harvesting of plant parts, preserving trees during land clearing, and allowing useful weed species in the field. Future development and conservation efforts in unprotected landscapes with multiple ecosystem functions should acknowledge knowledge, interests, and needs of local communities
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... These environments are also used for recreation and tourism and for retrieving clay and sand for crafts and construction, and for collection and use of forest, wildlife, fisheries and forage resources and they contribute to local cultural heritage (Dugan, 1990;Adams, 1993). Inland valleys are important locations for local communities to collect non-agricultural plant resources, and rural people generally recognize useful plant species and dispose knowledge on their use, abundance and collection places (Rodenburg et al., 2012). ...
... Until recently, the importance of wetland functions for local communities have, however, often been ignored in policy planning (Silvius et al., 2000;Wood et al., 2013). Understanding the use and management of ecosystem functions by local communities would be the first necessary step to generate recommendations for their sustainable use (Rodenburg et al., 2012). Different ecosystem services do not necessarily conflict. ...
... Different ecosystem services do not necessarily conflict. For instance, agricultural fields can be considered as important locations to find useful non-cultivated plants too (Rodenburg et al., 2012). Farmers recognize the useful weed species during weeding and leave them untouched or keep them apart after uprooting (see references in: Rodenburg and Johnson, 2009) and at field clearing useful species (predominantly trees) are often maintained (e.g. ...
... These environments are also used for recreation and tourism and for retrieving clay and sand for crafts and construction, and for collection and use of forest, wildlife, fisheries and forage resources and they contribute to local cultural heritage (Dugan, 1990;Adams, 1993). Inland valleys are important locations for local communities to collect non-agricultural plant resources, and rural people generally recognize useful plant species and dispose knowledge on their use, abundance and collection places (Rodenburg et al., 2012). ...
... Until recently, the importance of wetland functions for local communities have, however, often been ignored in policy planning (Silvius et al., 2000;Wood et al., 2013). Understanding the use and management of ecosystem functions by local communities would be the first necessary step to generate recommendations for their sustainable use (Rodenburg et al., 2012). Different ecosystem services do not necessarily conflict. ...
... Different ecosystem services do not necessarily conflict. For instance, agricultural fields can be considered as important locations to find useful non-cultivated plants too (Rodenburg et al., 2012). Farmers recognize the useful weed species during weeding and leave them untouched or keep them apart after uprooting (see references in: Rodenburg and Johnson, 2009) and at field clearing useful species (predominantly trees) are often maintained (e.g. ...
... In Africa, trees are also frequently encountered in rice where farmers maintain, manage and use beneficial trees in their fields (Rodenburg et al., 2012), in the higher parts of the lowlandupland continuum of inland valleys, where high-value fruit trees such as mango and cashew (Anacardium occidentale) are common (Balasubramanian et al., 2007) or in traditional agroforests in the forest zones of West Africa where several palm species (e.g. Raphia ruffia, Elaeis dura) are common (Camara et al., 2009). ...
... This corresponds with our own observation that purposeful integration of trees in rice systems in Africa is uncommon. Exceptions are tree management in the context of shifting cultivation, slash-and-burn systems, that are common in humid forest zones, notably in Sierra Leone, Côte d ′ Ivoire and Guinea (Rouw, 1993;Sirois et al., 1998;Camara et al., 2009;Saravia-Matus and Paloma, 2015), the indigenous practice of tree planting by rice farmers in Ebonyi State, Nigeria for soil and water conservation purposes (Obinna, 2019), clove-based upland rice cultivation in Madagascar (Arimalala et al., 2019) and the practice of allowing, maintaining or managing trees in upland rice fields and in the higher fringes of inland valleys (Madge, 1995;Balasubramanian et al., 2007;Rodenburg et al., 2012), but we did not find documentation of their agronomic or economic performance. ...
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While agroforestry is a well-established approach for agroecological intensification, rice is less often integrated with trees than other annual staple crops. The benefits and risks from rice agroforestry practices have not been systematically explored. Considering the need for strategies that may address low fertility and high degradation of arable soils and contribute to smallholder farm productivity, livelihoods and climate resilience, such exploration would both be timely and relevant. This study, therefore, reviews the published literature on integrating trees in rice production worldwide and provides perspectives for future research, with special attention to Africa, where the potential for sustainable productivity enhancement is deemed highest. Worldwide, six improved rice agroforestry practices are distinguished: hedgerow alley-cropping, short-term (0.5–4 years) improved fallows, pre-rice green manuring, biomass transfer, systematically arranged rice – tree intercropping and irregularly dispersed trees in fields. The rice agroforestry practices in the 87 publications reviewed were associated with 204 woody perennial species world-wide. Rice agroforestry practices provide a range of products and services to farmers but rice yield is the only quantitative performance indicator reported widely enough to enable meta-analysis. Frequently reported comparative or additional effects of fertilizer application, made it possible to include this aspect in the analyses. Across all types of agroforestry practices enumerated, the average effect of adding trees compared to a no-fertilizer and no-tree control is + 38%. The most beneficial practices in terms of enhancing rice yield were biomass transfer, pre-rice green manuring (100% of data points showing positive responses for both practices) and hedgerow alley-cropping (21% positive cases overall but 64% where fertilizer was not applied). Yield reductions occurred with fertilized intercropping compared to a fertilized mono-crop (in 95% of cases) and with the unfertilized short fallow practice (50% of data points showed yield reduction due to competition in the relay intercropping stage). Tree species that combined rice yield enhancements (alongside other products and services) with wide environmental adaptability across the African continent, include Sesbania rostrata, Aeschynomene afraspera, Acacia auriculiformis, Gliricidia sepium and Gmelia arborea. Yield benefits and risks from integrating trees with smallholder rice cropping depend on the type of agroforestry practice used and how each practice interacts with fertilizer application. Further research is needed to investigate the impact of different ways of integrating trees with rice cropping on wider environmental, social and economic sustainability aspects, that are driving increasing interest in rice agroforestry.
... Likewise, regulated access rights and uses of natural resources governed by the agdal system show lower degradation levels in the Atlas Mountains forests in Morocco than in areas outside this system (Hammi et al. 2010). Similarly, the traditional practice of selectively cutting trees or harvesting plant parts developed by several rural communities in Africa minimizes forest disturbance (Rodenburg et al. 2012). The existence of taboos that protect some species from disappearing has also been referred as a successful conservation practice (Colding and Folke 2001;Lingard et al. 2012). ...
... Likewise, regulated access rights and uses of natural resources governed by the agdal system show lower degradation levels in the Atlas Mountains forests in Morocco than in areas outside this system (Hammi et al. 2010). Similarly, the traditional practice of selectively cutting trees or harvesting plant parts developed by several rural communities in Africa minimizes forest disturbance (Rodenburg et al. 2012). The existence of taboos that protect some species from disappearing has also been referred as a successful conservation practice (Colding and Folke 2001;Lingard et al. 2012). ...
... In addition, these keywords do not always exist independently, but often present a related research status, For example: the impact of changes in agricultural models on traditional land use [43][44][45][46] and the protection of different agricultural substrates on biodiversity [47][48][49][50]. Negative correlations were found between increased land use intensity and heterogeneity of rural landscapes, habitat diversity, species richness, and biodiversity [38,40,51,52]. ...
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This study visualizes and quantifies extant publications of rural landscape research (RLR) in Web of Science using CiteSpace for a wide range of research topics, from a multi-angle analysis of the overall research profile, while providing a method and approach for quantitative analysis of massive literature data. First, it presents the number of papers published, subject distribution, author network, the fundamental condition of countries, and research organizations involved in RLR through network analysis. Second, it identifies the high-frequency and high betweenness-centrality values of the basic research content of RLR through keyword co-occurrence analysis and keyword time zones. Finally, it identifies research fronts and trending topics of RLR in the decade from 2009 to 2018 by using co-citation clustering, and noun-term burst detection. The results show that basic research content involves protection, management, biodiversity, and land use. Five clearer research frontier pathways and top 20 research trending topics are extracted to show diversified research branch development. All this provides the reader with a general preliminary grasp of RLR, showing that cooperation and analysis involving multiple disciplines, specialties, and angles will become a dominant trend in the field.
... Likewise, regulated access rights and uses of natural resources governed by the agdal system show lower degradation levels in the Atlas Mountains forests in Morocco than in areas outside this system (Hammi et al. 2010). Similarly, the traditional practice of selectively cutting trees or harvesting plant parts developed by several rural communities in Africa minimizes forest disturbance (Rodenburg et al. 2012). The existence of taboos that protect some species from disappearing has also been referred as a successful conservation practice (Colding and Folke 2001;Lingard et al. 2012). ...
... Among the bulk of food plants used, wild species represent 61% (70 species) and 46% of the most cited species by communities. The number of wild edible plants used in the two municipalities represents 43% of the total number of non-wood edible forest plant resources collected during a country-wide market survey in Benin [52] and is lower than the diversity of noncultivated plant species (87 species) collected in the southwest Benin and the southeast Togo [53]. Vegetable species represent about 57% while fruit species account for roughly 47% of wild edible plants collected. ...
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