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Indigenous Knowledge Informing Management on Tropical Forests: The Link between Rhythms in Plant Secondary Chemistry and Lunar Cycles


This research used knowledge of the indigenous practice of timing
nontimber forest product harvest with the full moon to demonstrate that
chemicals controlling the decomposition rate of foliage fluctuate with
the lunar cycle and may have developed as a result of plant-herbivore
interactions. Indigenous knowledge suggests that leaves harvested during
the full moon are more durable. Palm leaves harvested during the full
moon had higher total C, hemicellulose, complex C and lower Ca
concentrations. These chemical changes should make palm leaves less
susceptible to herbivory and more durable when harvested during the full
moon. This study proposes a mechanism by which plants in the tropics
minimize foliage herbivory and influence the decomposition rates of
senesced leaves and their durability, especially during the full moon.
This research supports the need to use natural life cycles in managing
forests and provides a scientific basis for an indigenous community’s
harvesting practice.