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v53n2p68-74

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PALMS
Gonzalez et al.:
Chilean PalmVol. 53(2) 2009
68
Ecology andManagementof the ChileanPalm (
 Jubaea chilensis 
):History,CurrentSituation andPerspectives
L
UIS
A
LBERTO
G
ONZALEZ
1
,R
AMIRO
O. B
USTAMANTE
2
R
AFAEL
M. N
AVARRO
C.
3
M
IGUEL
A
NGEL
H
ERRERA
M.
3
AND
M
ANUEL
T
ORAL
I
BAÑEZ
1
1 Departamento de Manejo de Recursos Forestales, Universidad de Chile, Santa Rosa 11.315,Comuna de la Pintana, Santiagode Chile, Chilealgonzal@uchile.clmtoral@uchile.cl2 Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Universidad deChile, Las Palmeras 3425,Comuna de Ñunoa, Santiago deChile, Chile rbustama@uchile.cl3 Departamento de Ingeniería Forestal, Universidad deCórdoba, Edf. Leonardo de Vincis/n Campus de Rabanales14071 Córdoba, Spainir1nacer@uco.es,mherrera@uco.es
 The Chilean palm,
 Jubaea chilensis
(Front Cover), one of the most emblematictree species of the Chilean flora, has suffered a gradual reduction of its populationnumbers in the last 150 years, with the estimated 120,000 palms that exist todaybeing no more than 2.5% of the existing population found at the beginning of the 19thCentury. From an economic point of view, this plant has been one of the most prized species in the central zone of Chile due to its two valuableproducts – its sap, the basis of the traditional palm honey industry, and its seeds(mini-coconuts), which are also an important product for the food industry.Along with a history of extensive use, there has been a drastic reduction of theaccompanying native vegetation due to anthropogenic activities, thus reducing the appropriate habitats for the natural regeneration of this species. Given itscurrent ecological condition and the need to implement strategies that ensureits conservation, it is necessary to evaluate current knowledge of the palm. Thisarticle gives a general background of the species, i.e. biogeography, ecology andhistory of use, and general recommendations are provided to ensure its persistencein the central zone of Chile.
PALMS 53(2): 68
74
 
In Chile, the palm family is represented bytwo monotypic genera:
 Jubaea
and
 Juania
;
 Jubaea chilensis
(Molina) Baill. (Chilean palm)is distributed in the central area of the country,and
 Juania australis
(chonta) is foundexclusively in the Juan Fernández archipelago(Muñoz 1962, Gay 1853).The history of 
 Jubaea chilensis
is linked to thegeological history of South America. Successiveglobal climate changes along with the Andeanorogenesis resulted in the confinement of tropical elements to the western slope of thismountainous range (Villagrán & Hinojosa2005).As a consequence of these geologicalchanges, a particular floral composition of theMediterranean zone has emerged withcoexisting elements such as those with austral-antarctic and tropical origins.The current geographic distribution of theChilean palm is very restricted, confined toan area from the south of the Limari river (IVRegion) to the surrounding areas of Curicó (VIIRegion), always along the Coastal Range of Chile. Serra et al. (1986) point out that it isdifficult to specify geographic limits since thepopulations of this species have been stronglyfragmented by the action of man (Bordeau1992).The northernmost limit is in the Hacienda LasPalmas, IV Region (31º15’S, 71º35’W), whilstits southernmost limit is the locality of Tapihue, VII Region (35º22’S, 71º47’W) (Fig. 1).Nowadays, there are around 15 localities wherewe may find the Chilean palm (Tab.1);however, in only three localities are thepopulation numbers important: Ocoa (aprox.60,000 individuals), Cocalán (35,000individuals) and Las 7 Hermanas (7,000individuals), thus representing more than 90%of the total (Serra et al. 1986, Rundel & Weisser1975, Michea 1988).In spite of the interest generated by
 J. chilensis
in our country, scientific knowledge of thisspecies in key aspects of its biology, such asreproduction, population regeneration or thebiological interactions in which it is involved(pollination, frugivory and herbivory), aresurprisingly scarce. Nothing is known aboutthe population genetics of this species or of itsreproduction systems. This lack of informationis serious since this knowledge is essential toelucidate how to assure the persistence of thisspecies under natural conditions.The indiscriminate harvest of seeds (mini-coconuts), which in many populations results
PALMS
Gonzalez et al.:
Chilean PalmVol. 53(2) 2009
in the extraction of the total nut production,has been identified as the main cause of thereduction of the population numbers (Serra etal. 1986). In fact, the large majority of remaining populations are dominated bysenescent individuals with a low or nullproportion of juveniles (Michea 1988),suggesting that the major limitations of therecruitment of new individuals occurs in theearly stages of the life cycle (Marcelo 2007).The conditions for successful seed germinationare well known under nursery settings (Infante
69
1. Geographical distribution of Chilean Palm.
 
1989, Arrué 2000, Solari 2002), suggesting thatthe species has no serious physiologicalconstraints for germination. There is only onestudy (Serra et al. 1986) that suggests thatgermination and subsequent survival of theseedlings are strongly dependent on the plantcover of the sclerophyllous forest, since theregeneration of new individuals in bare soil isnon-existent. Recent field experiments supportthe existence of this nurse effect (Marcelo2007). On the other hand, the seeds of theChilean palm are actively consumed by native(e.g.,
Octodon degus
; Zunino et al. 1992, Yateset al. 1994) and introduced rodents, animportant mortality factor that requiresevaluation. Also, seedlings are activelyconsumed by exotic rabbits, which is thus anadditional limitation for regeneration (Marcelo2007).Once individual palms surmount theecological barriers imposed on seeds andseedlings, no further mortality factors(excepting the death of individuals for humanuse) are critical for the juveniles and adultplants. Once the trunk is formed (at 25–30years of age), the Chilean palm presents anotable resistance to fire. In fact, the mortalityof adult specimens as a result of fire is almostzero even though the current occurrence of fires in Central Chile is extremely high(Montenegro et al. 2004)
Conservation and Management
Given the disappearance of the Chilean palmin vast areas of Central Chile, the authoritiestried to protect the species inside ProtectedWildlife Areas 35 years ago. These effortsresulted in the protection of the largestpopulation in the area of Ocoa of the CampanaNational Park (Fig. 2). The population of Cocalán, the second in size, has remained inprivate ownership, and although this area wasalso declared a National Park, this situationhas not been resolved legally.The Chilean palm has occupied a verysignificant role in rural culture. The extraction
PALMS
Gonzalez et al.:
Chilean PalmVol. 53(2) 2009
70
 Tab. 1. Natural Populations of Chilean Palm. Estimates were based on knowninventories, published data and the authors’ observations.
LOCALITIESLong.Lat.No. of palms(estimated)1.Sector OCOA: including Parque La Campana,32º5771º0470,308Hacienda Las Palmas de Ocoa, Oasis LaCampana y Palmas de Vichiculén-Llay Llay”2.Sector COCALÁN: including Hacienda Las34º1271º0835,500Palmas de Cocalán, La Palmería”, andsurrounding areas3.Sector VIÑA DEL MAR-VALPARAISO: including33º0471º317,200“Las Siete Hermanas, Subida Santos Ossa” andsurrounding areas4.Cuesta Los Guindos- Cuesta Alhué33º5871º142,5005.San Miguel de Las Palmas34º2571º472,0006.La Candelaria34º5171º291,9007.Tunel de Las Palmas, Pedegua32º0971º091,3008.Tilama, Pichidangui32º0571º08509.Tapihue, Pencahue35º15711471710.La Serena29º5471º15º311.Limahuida, Los Vilos31º4471º09212.“Paredones, El Asiento, Talaand 200dispersed individualsTOTAL120,980

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