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

Vogt, Kristiina A.; Beard, Karen H.; Hammann, Shira; O’Hara Palmiotto, Jennifer; Vogt,Daniel J.; Scatena, Frederick N.; Hecht, Brooke P. 2002. Indigenous Knowledge Informing Management of Tropical Forests: The Link between Rhythms in Plant Secondary Chemistry and Lunar Cycles.. Ambio Vol. 31 No. 6, Sept. 2002

Abstract: 
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.