Resource Details

Lacandon Maya ecosystem management: sustainable design for subsistence and environmental restoration

Literature: Journal Articles

Diemont, S. A., & Martin, J. F. (2009). Lacandon Maya ecosystem management: sustainable design for subsistence and environmental restoration. Ecological Applications, 19(1), 254-266.

Contact Info


Department of Environmental Resources & Forest Engineering, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science & Forestry

Department of Agroecology, El Colegio de La Frontera Sur, San Cristobal de las Casa, Chiapas, Mexico

Department of Food, Agriculture, and Biological Engineering, Ohio State University


Species Info

Ochroma pyramidale; Cecropia obtusifolia; Sapium lateriflorum; Zea mays; Arachis hypogaea; Phaseolus calcaratus; Heliconia librata; Capsicum sp.; Spondias mombin; Saccharum officinarum; Lycopersicon esculentum; Cucurbita moschata; Ananas cosmosus; Allium porrum; Mentha piperita; Solanum americanum; Cyperus rotundus; Serjania arrolineata; Carica papaya; Musa spp.; Allium cepa; Baccharis trinervis; Manihot esculenta; Lonchorcarpus guatemalensis; Canna indica;


  • Paper examines the swidden agroforestry used by the Lacandon Maya (indigenous group who live in Chiapas, Mexico), linking soil ecology to previous studies on plant communities (Nations and Nigh 1980).
  • Methods included: i. describing the plant community in each successional stage of the Lacandon agroecosystem using traditional Lacandon Maya stage distinctions; ii. quantifying differences in plant community in terms of diversity among successional stages of the Lacandon agroecosystems; and iii. evaluating the soil ecology in each successional stage. Results suggessted the Lacandon method of successional agrroforestry was structurally and categorically similar to the secondary forest of the same age classes, demonstrating that biodiversity can be maintained and restored in systems while maintaining subsistence agricultural production. In this case, traditional ecological knowledge supported the successional development of plant communities to accelerate soil restoration during fallows, and to provide soil organic material for later successional species- ultimately acclerating faster forest recovery and improving soil fertility for agricultural use. should be applied toward large-scale ecological conservation efforts to meet both conservation and agricultural needs of rural peoples.
  • Applying this study to large-scale conservation efforts includes: (1) planting and protecting species that are useful to the farmer during the fallow, (2) planting and protecting trees in the fallow that enhance soil fertility recovery, (3) clearly distinguishing fallow developmental stages in terms of species composition for both production and fertility recovery, and (4) conserving primary forest to provide seeds and animal refuge.


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