Adult tree ferns of the genera Cyathea and Alsophila are frequently harvested from tropical forest remnants near the city of Cuetzalan (Puebla, Mexico). Local artisans use the adventitious roots that surround tree fern stems as substrate to make handicrafts. In this region, tree ferns regenerate abundantly in disturbed areas such as roadsides, in which they suffer high mortality due to weeding and other road maintenance activities. Transplantation of young tree ferns from these areas to safe sites could contribute to the ex situ conservation of the species. The sale of transplanted tree ferns could also provide local families with an additional source of income. We identified and estimated the abundance of all tree fern species that occurred along roadsides in this region. We evaluated the viability of transplanting young tree ferns of Cyathea divergens and Alsophila firma to different conditions of light availability. While only 30% of the individuals naturally growing along roadsides survived for 1 year, C. divergens transplants experienced 73.3 and 86.7% survival and A. firma transplants experienced 93.3 and 40% survival when planted in safe sites under open canopy and in 50% shade, respectively. Transplants of C. divergens produced more fronds and grew faster in height than transplants of A. firma. Individuals of both species transplanted to 50% shade produced more fronds and grew faster than conspecifics transplanted to open canopy areas. Transplantation proved to be a low time- and cost-demanding strategy to promote conservation of native tree fern populations while providing local people with a potentially profitable alternative to replace handicraft production.
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