Front. For. Glob. Change
Sec. People and Forests
doi: 10.3389/ffgc.2022.1020207

The “Guamúchil” cultivation in a Mexican cultural landscape: a wild food source for people and birds

 Rubén Ortega-Álvarez1*, Alana Pacheco-Flores1 and  Alejandro Casas1
  • 1Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Provisionally accepted:
The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon.

Indigenous management of biocultural resources can influence behaviour of non-target animals. Hence, identifying shared resources between indigenous communities and fauna is essential to understand the ecological relationships that occur within cultural landscapes and promote sustainable practices. In this ethnoecological research we analysed the feeding importance of a wild food that is used by both people and birds. We employed unstructured interviews and a survey to learn about food resources used by people of a Nahua community in western Mexico. Trees were frequently mentioned by locals; thus, we determined salience and cultural meaning of arboreal feeding sources for the indigenous community. The “Guamúchil” or Manila tamarind (Pithecellobium dulce) was the most bioculturally salient tree for the feeding and economy of local people, and we evaluated its significance for birds too. We analysed avian foraging behaviour to estimate the number of species that used the tree as a food source, the relevance of Guamúchil as foraging substrate, food types provided by this tree, and the avian feeding use of Guamúchil when it was locally employed as a live fence. We observed that local people tracked fruiting Guamúchil across the landscape and cultivated it in homegardens to facilitate fruit access. Seed pods were locally appreciated for direct consumption by households and commercialization. Guamúchil’s cover was low in the surrounding forest (mean: 0.4, standard deviation: 0.7), but much higher in homegardens (mean: 20.9, standard deviation: 16.3). We estimated that about a fourth of the avian species that foraged across the cultural landscape during our sampling feed on Guamúchil. Birds prey on invertebrates associated with this tree, but Guamúchil was mostly important to avian foraging for the fruit it produces. We determined that live fences of Guamúchil functioned as complementary food sources to birds. Our research shows how humans and birds share key feeding resources within cultural landscapes. Also, we depict how indigenous agroforestry practices positively impact wildlife foraging, which should be promoted as conservation and restoration tools to support sustainability. Identifying key foods and analysing their use might facilitate the development of activities aimed to benefiting both humans and animal communities.

Keywords: ethnoecology, feeding, Homegardens, Indigenous community, Live fence, Pithecellobium dulce, Tropical dry forest, Behavior

Received: 15 Aug 2022; Accepted: 31 Aug 2022.

Copyright: © 2022 Ortega-Álvarez, Pacheco-Flores and Casas. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Rubén Ortega-Álvarez, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Morelia, 58190, Michoacan, Mexico