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Population Dynamics and Sustainable Management of Mescal Agaves in Central Mexico: Agave potatorum in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley
Abstract and Figures
Population Dynamics and Sustainable Management of Mescal Agaves in Central Mexico: Agave potatorum in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley. A total of 37 agave species are extracted from forests of Mexico for producing mescal. This activity has caused decline of numerous populations, and their sustainable management is indispensable for preventing species extinctions. Our study analyzed demographic information about Agave potatorum in the Tehuacán Valley with the goal of developing proposals for sustainable use for agaves in general. We studied protected populations in two contrasting environments, and through prospective analyses and real data about extraction and reforestation rates, we simulated different scenarios of actions. Our analyses indicate that the populations’ growth rates (λ) in conserved populations are 0.9903 ± 0.062 and 1.021 ± 0.062, but viability analyses suggest that even those unmanaged populations would decrease 30% to 90% in 30 years. Survival and growth of early agave plant stages contribute most to λ; adult stages and fecundity have low contribution but their conservation is crucial for population recovery. Based on a successful management experience with A. cupreata, we suggest that at least 30% of reproductive plants should be left to ensure seed provision for natural and assisted populations’ recovery. The reintroduction of plants at two early stages of growth is recommended, particularly 1–2-year-old plants, the size categories with the highest contribution to λ. Current efforts by local people to promote cattle exclusion from forest areas, seed collection, and their propagation in nurseries, and actions for recovery and conservation of populations are strategies of high value. Our research contributes to optimizing the effectiveness of such actions and aids in the conservation of other agave species.
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