The commercial bark harvest of the African cherry (Prunus africana) on Mount Oku, Cameroon: Effects on traditional uses and population dynamics

Kristine Marie Stewart, Florida International University


Bark extracts of the African cherry (Prunus africana) are used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia. This study examined the effects of commercial bark harvest on population dynamics in the Kilum-Ijim Forest Preserve on Mount Oku, Cameroon and on traditional uses. P. africana is valued for its timber and as fuel although its greatest value is as a traditional medicine for human and animal ailments. Harvest has depleted the resource and has eroded traditional forest protection practices. I constructed matrix models to examine the effects of bark harvest on population structure and on population dynamics in harvested and unharvested populations. Harvesting simulations examined the effect on the population growth rate (λ) with differing levels of mortality of harvest-sized and large trees and differing harvest frequencies. Size class frequencies for the entire forest decreased in a reverse j-shaped curve, indicating adequate recruitment in the absence of harvest. Individual plots showed differences from the overall forest data, suggesting effects of natural and man-made perturbations, particularly due to bark harvest. One plot (harvested in the 1980s) showed a temporal difference in λ and fluctuated around one, due to alternating high and low fruiting years; other unharvested plots showed smaller temporal differences. Harvested plots (harvested illegally in 1997) had values of λ less than one and showed small temporal differences. The control plot also showed λ less than one, due to poor recruitment in the closed canopy forest. The value of λ for the combined data was 0.9931 suggesting a slightly declining population. The elasticity matrix for the combined data indicated the population growth rate was most sensitive to the survival of the large reproductive trees (42.5% of the elasticity). In perturbation analyses, reducing the survival of the large trees caused the largest reductions in λ. Simulations involving harvesting frequency indicated λ returns to pre-harvest conditions if trees are re-harvested after 10–15 years, but only if the large trees are left unharvested. Management scenarios suggest harvest can be sustainable if seedlings and small saplings are planted in the forest and actively managed, although large-scale plantations may be the only feasible option to meet market demand.

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Recommended Citation

Stewart, Kristine Marie, "The commercial bark harvest of the African cherry (Prunus africana) on Mount Oku, Cameroon: Effects on traditional uses and population dynamics" (2001). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3006865.