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Coco de Mer and Vallee de Mai

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The iconic coco de mer Lodoicea maldivica is deeply embedded in Seychelles culture and a central species in the countries unique biodiversity (Biodiversity). The palm with the largest fruits in the plant kingdom is endemic to Praslin and the neighbouring island of Curieuse where three relatively intact populations of coco de mer form dense palm forest stands. The best stand of coco de mer forest, the Vallee de Mai (managed by the Seychelles Islands Foundation, SIF), is the main tourist attraction in Seychelles, and coco de mer nuts are a sought-after souvenir for tourists. Over-harvesting and, in recent years, poaching have raised concerns about the long-term viability of the current management approach. SIF established a coco de mer working group with all coco de mer stakeholders and research partners to address these concerns and to initiate research into coco de mer with the aim to provide a science basis for evidence-based management of the palm.


Since the initiation of the research programme, SIF together with project partners have published several publications on the management and ecology of the coco de mer, greatly improving our understanding of the importance of the palm for the entire ecosystem. For example, Rist et al. (2010) determined that the common management strategy was unsustainable and 20% of the annual nut crop should be planted back into the forest to sustain the current population size in the long term. These recommendations (and others) were passed on to policy-makers and the management authorities, and actions have been taken to adjust the legal status of the palm and the nut harvesting schemes (Kaiser-Bunbury et al. 2015). Further, targeted data collection over the last 6 years has greatly increased the understanding of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of the species. Recently we uncovered a new aspect of the exceptional biology of the species by showing that the palm has evolved a nutrient-recycling system that is unique among plants by benefiting not only the adult trees but also the dispersal-limited offsprings. These findings have implications for the management of the species, as nuts should be allowed to regenerate close to mother trees where juveniles will find the most nutrient-rich environment in such dense palm forest (Edwards et al. 2015).


The output of the coco de mer working group exemplifies the effectiveness of transdisciplinary partnerships between management authorities, policy-makers and researchers (Kaiser-Bunbury et al. 2015).

Sustainable harvest of the largest seed in the world

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