Methodology to assess the situation of a medicinal and aromatic plant species to apply a sustainable management in a specific context

High density wild heather population (Calluna vulgaris) in Galicia (Spain). Source: GPAM-CTFC.
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A large number of the medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) on the market come from wild collection and some of them are being overexploited or exploited without following proper practices. Establishing an adequate management could maintain the use of some species without compromising their conservation and obtain a benefit for the rural community.

In order to collect, it is necessary to evaluate the situation of that species in the place where it is going to be collected to estimate if it can be considered a “resource” or not, and to do it following an adequate methodology.


When considering whether a wild species can be harvested in a given context, a global assessment of this species should be made, including: the suitability of the origin of the plant material (collection or cultivation) and what implications (environmental, economic, technical and social) both options entail, the current situation of this species and the vulnerability of being collected. The answers obtained will help to define a more or less restrictive and conservationist management objective or another one oriented to a sustainable use that includes regeneration and conservation.

Main results: 

In the European project ValuePAM, a "Methodology to assess a medicinal or aromatic species as a wild resource to implement sustainable harvesting" is presented.  This guidebook exposes a procedure to follow to carry out the analysis of a wild plant species in a certain moment and area and its quantitative and qualitative evaluation. If the species is valued as a resource, a protocol is presented to design a sustainable collection management and the design of follow-up and control of the extraction activity over time. If, on the other hand, the species is not in a condition to be collected, a regeneration plan should be proposed and monitored over time.

Main practical recommendations: 

In order to evaluate if a species can be a resource and how it should be used, the procedure to follow is: 

  1. Analysis of the current situation of the plant species to be exploited.
  2. Evaluation of the resource: approximation of the geographic area to be exploited.
  3. Quantitative evaluation of the resource: abundance, distribution and structure of the population
  4. Qualitative evaluation of the resource: prospecting and chemical characterisation of the natural resource.
  5. Proposal of the exploitation plan.
  6. Design of monitoring and control of the extraction activity over time. Monitoring.
Impacts and weaknesses: 

For any species submitted to commercial collection is necessary to apply a management plan for harvesting and to establish a methodology of periodic monitoring to evaluate the impact that this activity has on wild populations and ecosystems.

From the analysis of monitoring information collected over time, the adjustments that should be implemented to the initial collection protocol would be determined in order to minimize the negative impact by guaranteeing the regeneration of wild populations to maintain a sustainable yield. 

Future developments: 

Monitoring the harvesting activity to analyse its impact on wild populations and natural environments is the only way to obtain information to correct or modify the management plans implemented.

The most appropriate method for monitoring will depend on the objective, the species, the type of collection and the availability of economic resources. The variables to be determined, the sampling units and the experimental design should be defined to establish the procedure. For some species and in some habitats, monitoring with drones may offer advantages.

Centre de Ciència i Tecnologia Forestal de Catalunya (CTFC)

Further information

Elzinga C.L., Salzer D.W., & Willoughby J.W.; 1998. Measuring and monitoring plant populations. BLM/RS/ST-98/005+1730. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, National Applied Resource Science Center. Denver, Colorado, USA.

FairWild Resource Assessment: FairWild Guidance Manual for Establishing Species and Area Management Plans for Low Risk Plant Species. (Versión 1.0 - December 2014). FairWild Foundation, Weinfelden, Switzerland. 41pp.

Leaman D.J.; 2008. The international standard for sustainable wild collection of medicinal and aromatic plants (ISSC-MAP). Elements of the Standard Relevant to CITES NDF. International Expert Workshop on CITES Non-Detriment Findings Perennial Plant Working Group (Ornamentals, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. Cancun, Mexico, November 2008.

Leaman D.J.; Cunningham T.; 2008. Guidance for implementing the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP). Resource Assessment, a guide to implementing Principle 1: maintaining Wild MAP Resources. IUCN-SSC Medicinal Plant Specialist Group.

Michler B.; 2007. Conservation of Eastern European Medicinal Plants. Arnica montana in Romania. Case study Gârda de Sus. Management Plan. Ifanos Landschaftsökologie. WWF-UK, Darwin Initiative.

Peters C.M., Purata S.E.; 2014. Taller de Capacitación: métodos para la valoración de productos forestales no maderables con fines de manejo sostenible. 20-22 de mayo de 2014, Santa María Huatulco, Oaxaca, México.

Schindler, H., Ponsens, J. & Schneider, A.; 2010. Manual for sustainable wild collection practice. Institute for Marketecology, BIO Foundation Switzerland. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH. Eschborn, Germany.

Schumann K., Witting R., Thiombiano A., Becker U., Hahn K.; 2010. Impact of land-use type and bark- and leaf-harvesting on population structure and fruit production of the baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L.) in a semi-arid savanna, West Africa. Forest Ecology and Management 260(11), 2035-2044 pp.

Schumann K., Witting R., Thiombiano A., Becker U., Hahn K.; 2011. Impact of land-use type and harvesting on population structure of a non-timber forest product- providing tree in a semi-arid savanna, West Africa. Biological Conservation 144(9), 2369-2376 pp.

Vázquez Pardo, F.M., Blanco Salas, J.; 2007. Conservación de flora amenazada en ambientes mediterráneos. Centro de Investigación La Orden-Valdesequera. Grupo de Investigación HABITAT. Dirección General de Innovación y Competitividad Empresarial. Junta de Extremadura.

Weigend M. & Dostert, N.; 2008. Manejo sustentable de ratania en Perú. Bootconsult GmbH, Weleda AG. Documento D23/02-34.

Figure 1 credit: 

High density wild heather population (Calluna vulgaris) in Galicia (Spain). Source: GPAM-CTFC. 

Figure 2: 
Monitoring of a wild population of Gentiana lutea in the Pyrenees with the help of a drone. Source: GPAM-CTFC.
Figure 2 caption and credit: 

Monitoring of a wild population of Gentiana lutea in the Pyrenees with the help of a drone. Source: GPAM-CTFC.