Utilization of plant functional traits in mitigating over-exploitation of high ethnobotanical value plants of Chongwe district, Zambia.

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Mwambo, Matthews
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The University of Zambia
Traditionally valued wild indigenous plants play a critical role in various ethnic groups. Ethnobotanical value of plants differ according to the regions and ethnic groups. Despite the rich ethnobotanical value of tropical plants, there is still limited knowledge and no documentation on specific plant species use in Chongwe district. Besides, little effort has been made to cultivate them ex-situ or in-situ in Zambia leading to their decline. This may be due to limited knowledge in indigenous plant regeneration bringing about a challenge in optimizing their germination that can help in their restoration. Studies have shown that ethnobotanically valued plants are susceptible to over-harvesting leading to a reduction in plant abundance. This research, therefore, sought to highlight the plant species of high ethnobotanical value and study the effect of fruit weight, seed shape and seed depulping on seed germination and seedling emergence to propose optimal methods in improving seed germination performance. Ethnobotanical data was collected using convenience and snowball sampling methods. Semi-structured questionnaires were administered to fifty informants. Interviews were conducted in Nyanja, Bemba and English depending on the preference of the informants. Local names and the uses of the plant were recorded. It was found that most of the plant species in Chongwe were used for medicine purpose (33.6%) and Fabaceae emerged as the most used plant family. Out of the twenty most ranked native species in terms of cultural value, eight fruiting species of highest ethnobotanical value were exposed to experimentation to determine whether variables (fruit weight and seed shape) and treatments (depulped not washed and depulped washed) affected germination performance from August 2020 to January 2021. A stratified randomized design layout was used to place seed pots in the plant shed in the Department of Biological Sciences for an even v distribution of environmental parameters among treatments and to eliminate bias. Primary ethnobotanical data obtained from questionnaires was analysed using Excel while the experimental analysis on germination performance was done using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). This study showed that seedling emergence were significantly affected by seed shape (P < 0.05) as seedling emergence reduced from spherical to spindle seeds Germination rate was significantly affected by fruit weight (P < 0.01) with a negative correlation coefficient of (-1.000) as germination rate increased with the reduction in fruit weight. Depulping and washing of seeds had a significant effect on germination percentage (P < 0.05) with 61.5% depulped washed seeds germinating. Germination percentage increased significantly for the depulped washed seeds compared to the pulped (13.5%) and depulped not washed seeds (25%). Therefore, selecting seeds from smaller fruits and spindle shaped seeds of the studied species and as well as depulping and washing the seeds can give a high germination percentage. This can contribute to sustainable management of ethnobotanically valued species. Keywords: Ethnobotanical values; Plant functional traits; Seedling Emergence; Germination Rate; Germination Percentage.
Master of Science in Tropical Ecology and Biodiversity
Ethnobotanical value of plants. , Ethnobotany. , Ethnobotany--Zambia. , Ethnobotanical values. , Plant functional traits.