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BENAVIDES, ANA MARÍA  and  HERNANDEZ-G., ALBA LORENA. Aerial root availability of three wild-harvested species used in artisanal handicraft elaboration in Santa Elena, Antioquia (Colombia). Caldasia [online]. 2015, vol.37, n.2, pp.345-358. ISSN 0366-5232.

In the Colombian Andes many artisanal handicrafts are made from aerial roots of wild native plant species. However deforestation and unsustainable practices have reduced the availability of wild plants used as fiber source. In this study, we assessed the availability of fibers of three species in Santa Elena (Antioquia): Asplundia sarmentosa, Philodendron aff. sagittifolium and Clusia multiflora. After an exhaustive searched in the study area were located less than 30 adult plants of each species. For each plant we measured plant size variables and recorded the number and length of mature and immature roots. Fragments of roots were weighted to estimate biomass. Monthly root growth measures were done during seven months. The current availability of fiber (mature roots) is ca. 3 352 m (Asplundia 1 481 m, Clusia 952 m, Philodendron 918 m), and between 419 and 838 baskets can be made with this amount of material. According to the monthly root growth rates, a new aerial root could reach a harvestable size after 38 to 71 months. More mature roots were found in larger plants; however, growth rate is not associated with plant size. Our results provide evidence that plants in Santa Elena have a similar relationship in size and number of mature roots as those from undisturbed areas. However, the fiber harvest in Santa Elena is not sustainable due to the low amount of plants likely to be harvested, the slow root growth rate and the high demand for fiber. In fact, it is necessary to implement strategies such as forest species enrichment with these three species to ensure a sustainable activity for artisans in the Santa Elena and in other forests in the Central Cordillera of the Andes.

Keywords : Asplundia; Clusia; fiber; Philodendron; root.

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