Tarin Toledo Aceves

Title of Research: 

Harvesting Epiphytic Bromeliads: An Opportunity for Cloud Forest Conservation

Kleinhans Fellow: 
2009 to 2011

Project Summary:

Tropical montane cloud forests (TMCFs) are a vital source of freshwater for local and downstream communities in the tropics. TMCFs are home to an immense amount biodiversity, yet they are seriously threatened by deforestation. Their recovery and maintenance relies upon appropriate management and the involvement of communities living within TMCF areas. Epiphytes are a characteristic component of TMCF. Large numbers of epiphytic bromeliads are extracted from TMCFs in southern Mexico for the construction of floral arches and for trade in local markets, with no form of control to sustainably manage their populations. In addition to reduction and alteration of habitat, the over-extraction of epiphytes has a deleterious effect on the remnant populations.

Through this project, researchers with the Instituto de Ecología A.C. and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México aim to develop a management plan, in partnership with the local communities, for the sustainable harvesting of epiphytic bromeliads from TMCF fragments within a watershed in Veracruz, Mexico. The harvesting of epiphytic bromeliads based on an ecologically sound plan, in conjunction with nursery propagation, would add to the diversification of the productive system and contribute to TMCF conservation while assisting the preservation of local traditions.

This project is part of an integrated rural development initiative in the watersheds of the Pixquiac and Xocoyolapan rivers, managed by the NGO Sendas and the UNAM’s Social Research Institute, which aims to combat the environmental degradation of both watersheds. To achieve this, strategies are being implemented to promote sustainable land use based on protection and restoration agreements within and among local communities, and through the maintenance and recuperation of water quality. This project will serve as an example of the sustainable harvesting of epiphytes for the region and the country.

Project Objectives:

  • Evaluate the abundance, population structure, and dynamics of three epiphytic bromeliad species with market potential in the TMCF fragments.
  • Determine rates and methods of sustainable epiphytic bromeliad harvesting.
  • Develop and implement pilot management plans for epiphytic bromeliad harvesting and design a monitoring plan for the system of extraction.
  • Establish nurseries within local communities to propagate epiphytic bromeliads.
  • Strengthen the capacity of the local communities to manage their own resources.
  • Disseminate information regarding the ecological and economic importance of the sustainable management of epiphytic bromeliads as a viable productive alternative for owners of TMCF remnant fragments.

Learn more about Aceves’ project on the Rainforest Alliance’s Eco-Index website.