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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Yield, sustainable harvest and cultural uses of resin from the copal tree (Protium copal: Burseraceae) in the carmelita community forest concession, Petén, Guatemala Neels, Sabine

Abstract

A three-part study was conducted on Protium copal (Burseraceae) in the lowland tropical forests of northern Guatemala with the principle objective of providing preliminary data for the potential exploitation of its resin. Part one investigated the potential resin yield of an area within the Carmelita Community Forest Concession (CCFC), in the department of Peten, by tapping copal trees for sixteen weeks using two tapping methods (Tl and T2). A selection of environmental and biological variables was recorded. Part two monitored the tapped trees and a sample of untapped copal trees within the study area for weekly levels of phenological activity. Part three consisted of an ethnobotanical survey of the local knowledge of the copal tree, conducted with twenty individuals from four communities near the study area knowledgeable in local forest plants and their uses. The results from the resin yield study indicated that the variables that described tree size and health were the greatest determinants of resin production, although unpredictable tree-totree variability in resin-producing capacity was shown to significantly influence resin yield. No significant difference was observed between the two tapping methods in terms of resin yield, but Tl provided a cleaner resin that required less time and effort to collect. A conservative estimate of resin production in the study area is 2.4 kg/ha, providing a preliminary estimate of 66, 000 kg of resin for the CCFC per year with a tapping period of sixteen weeks from February to May. Overall phenological activity rose significantly from mid to late February (flowering), and from early to late April (fruiting and new foliage). The level of tapping used in the study had a significant and positive effect on phenological activity on two of the sixteen data collection dates. The ethnobotanical survey revealed the resin is the most commonly used part of the copal tree. The resin is best known locally for its use as ceremonial and healing incense, but also has many medicinal functions, including the relief of muscular pain, arthritis, rheumatism, treatment of cavities, removal of various skin ailments and in the treatment of wounds and bruises.

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