Department of Biology, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Harvest of plant products from the wild are an important source of livelihood to millions of people who live near forests. The impact of harvesting occurs at many levels to the ecology of the species. Harvesters are guided by their traditional ecological knowledge that also aids in reducing the impact of the harvest. I use the case study of Canarium strictum Roxb, (Burseraceae) a semi-evergreen tree harvested for resin by several indigenous communities in the Indian subcontinent. Resin is used locally for rituals and healing purposes and traded widely for industrial uses. I investigated the effects of resin harvesting on the ecology and phenology of the species on 89 trees in three regions of the Nilgiri Biopshere Reserve, Western Ghats, for two years. Seed germination experiments with seeds from harvested and not harvested trees were also undertaken. Through focus group discussions with harvesters, and using a fuzzy logic approach I documented their perceptions on the ecology of resin harvest and trees. I found that harvesting practices, size of the tree along with the characteristic of the tree flush colour were significant predictors of resin harvest. My results show that harvesting of resin has no negative effect on the growth rate, and fruit production. However harvested trees flowered at different times from not harvested trees and showed increased fruit production and seed germination rates. I found that resin harvesting was a prevalent practice among the indigenous people of the region and many of the factors perceived by the harvesters to influence resin quality and status of resin tree numbers in the forest coincided with factors observed in the ecological studies. Overall my results suggest that harvesting of resin has relatively low impact on the ecology of C. strictum and harvesters of resin make decisions on resin harvest based on a number of ecological factors. My results illustrate some of the detailed knowledge that harvesters have with regard to a lesser studied species like C. strictum, and community based monitoring programs that build on this knowledge can ensure strategies that allow for sustainable use while meeting the goals of conservation.