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Palm Forest Landscape in Castillos (Rocha, Uruguay): Contributions to the Design of a Conservation Area

DOI: 10.4236/ojf.2017.72007, PP. 97-120

Keywords: Butia odorata, In Situ Conservation, Geographic Information Systems, Plant Genetic Resources

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Butia palm forests are considered unique due to their aesthetic value, high biodiversity level and historical, archaeological and cultural value. The lack of regeneration of butia palms caused by cattle overgrazing and natural grasslands replacement by agriculture endangers these palm forests. The aim of this work is to provide information for the proposal of a conservation area in this rural landscape within the framework of sustainable development. This work was developed within the context of a Geographic Information System with thematic information on palm forest density levels, soils, land use aptitude and rural registers. Field surveys were conducted to record the presence of plant species and genetic resources in different vegetation units. The main category of soil cover was natural grasslands, followed by native forests, wetlands and palm forests. Palm forests grow mainly on soil units with poor to rather poor drainage and on arable or non-arable lands under special conditions. We identified 212 farms where the palm forest is found, a high diversity of vegetation units, the presence of 302 native taxa of plants and a significant number of plant genetic resources for various uses. For the designation of a conservation area, we propose 20 priority farms that will ensure that palm forests are well represented regarding ecosystem diversity. We consider the creation of a Protected Landscape, a State Park or a GIAHS to be the best alternatives so as to protect this unique multifunctional landscape.


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