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Conservation and Sustainability

Increased demand for herbs and botanicals, such as Indian sandalwood (Santalum album, Santalaceae) and African sandalwood (Osyris lanceolata, Santalaceae), elderberry (Sambucus nigra, Viburnaceae), and Mexican vanilla (Vanilla planifolia, Orchidaceae), has led to concerns about conservation and sustainability for these plants.

African sandalwood has been declared endangered due, in part, to increased use in both the perfume and aromatherapy industries and lack of conservation efforts.1 A drought-tolerant and semiparasitic tree, conservation has been stymied because of a lack of understanding of the species. Four major issues of conservation were highlighted in a review of African sandalwood: taxonomy complexity, anecdotal information about distribution range (which includes Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Socotra Islands), poor understanding of natural habitat distribution, and the lack of studies regarding genetic diversity and ethnobotany. Usage of the tree includes as a dye, food, medicine, timber, and in perfume. The review authors suggest future study consider increased awareness of ethnobotanical uses and the ecological, population dynamics, and genetic characteristics of African sandalwood. See HC 022228-700.

A study focusing on elderberries sought to determine the herb’s sustainable biodiversity by evaluating the effects of various cultivars, harvest years, and plantation fields on the physiochemical composition of the berries.2 Elderberries from three cultivars were evaluated over three harvesting periods (2018, 2019, and 2020), in three fields in the Varosa Valley, Portugal. Intravariability of elderberries’ physicochemical parameters was strongest for harvest year, followed by field, and the interaction of harvest by field. Results demonstrated that climatic conditions and water status can have a major impact on chemical composition of elderberries. Along with analyzing the juice, the authors studied elderberry pomace and found that the pomace may be a potential alternative source of protein and fiber as well as a significant source of vitamin B6. See HC 032215-700.

In 2018, natural vanilla was worth more by weight than silver, and demand for Mexican vanilla continues to be greater than supply.3 Commercial vanilla production faces concerns of low genetic diversity, climate change, and susceptibility to diseases due to the homogeneity of the gene pool. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was used to identify compounds in Atlantic Forest species in Brazil. V. bahaina and V. chamissonis both showed potential in providing key compounds and the possibility to provide diversification in vanilla production. Sustainable agroforestry of these varietal vanillas could strengthen vanilla species and assist in meeting market demand. See HC 032247-700.

Lori Glenn
HerbClip™ Managing Editor


1Mugula BB, Kiboi SK, Kanya JI. Knowledge gaps in taxonomy, ecology, population distribution drivers and genetic diversity of African sandalwood (Osyris lanceolata Hochst. & Steud.): a scoping review for conservation. Plants (Basel). August 26, 2021;10(9):1780. doi: 10.3390/plants10091780.

2Costa CP, Patinha S, Rudnitskaya A, Santos SAO, Silvestre AJD, Rocha SM. Sustainable valorization of Sambucus nigra L. berries: From crop biodiversity to nutritional value of juice and pomace. Foods. December 2021;11(1):104. doi: 10.3390/foods11010104.

3da Silva Oliveira JP, Garrett R, Bello Koblitz MG, Macedo AF. Vanilla flavor: species from the Atlantic forest as natural alternative. Food Chem. May 2022;375:131891. doi.10.1016/j.foodchem.2021.131891.