Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
James B McGraw
Since European colonization, Appalachian culture has been based on resource extraction, such as coal mining, timbering, and Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) harvest. Surface mining degrades forest habitat for medicinal plants, especially the habitat for the internationally valuable medicinal herb, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.), and the NTFP culture associated with this plant. The relationship between medicinal plant conservation and surface mining must be studied with a non- traditional, multi-faceted approach: culturally, economically, and ecologically. (1) Using community-based participatory surveys, I determined how ginseng harvesters and non- harvesters in West Virginia communities view the relationship between surface mining and ginseng harvest. Harvester culture is one worth preserving, as they value conservation. However, most harvesters admit to illegal harvesting practices. By determining what harvesters and non-harvesters prioritize and value, and understanding what is the most effective way to connect with these two groups, this research can aid in the development of successful environmental education and conservation outreach. (2) Challenging the perceptions that economic growth is incompatible with ecological consciousness, an economic analysis comparing the short-term gains of surface mining to the potential economic value of sustainable ginseng harvest or a large-scale ginseng farm operation was completed. Through an in-depth economic modeling approach I showed that stewarded ginseng harvest can be economically advantageous in the long-term while maintaining the integrity of the forest. (3) For reintroduction purposes, the concept of 'indicator species' is frequently used. These species are often selected based on anecdotal information, rather than scientific rigor. In order to maximize the efficiency of ginseng reintroductions, I analyzed the ability of select putative indicators (herbs, shrubs, and trees) to serve as site and microsite predictors of ginseng growth. Most indicators were ineffective, and the ones that did show a relationship to growth were contra- indicators, predicting reduced individual plant growth. This research may aid reintroduction and agroforestry projects, and thereby reduce the frequency of reintroductions that fail because plants are introduced into suboptimal locations. (4) By experimentally reintroducing two medicinal plants, ginseng and goldenseal, to two sites with three types of disturbance history, I determined that degraded landscapes can return to a forested state that supports medicinal plant growth and reproduction, although microsite and soil conditions were found to be important to consider when reintroducing plants. As such, appropriate future land-management decisions can be made based on land-use legacy. By combining social, economic, and ecological studies, medicinal plant conservation can be implemented through the development of environmental outreach and effective reintroduction strategies.
Turner, Jessica B., "The Root of Sustainability: Investigating the relationship between medicinal plant conservation and surface mining in Appalachia" (2015). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6839.