Those developing new strategies for rain forest conservation through sustainable use ascribe a prominent role to forest biodiversity. Faced with the challenge of combining conservation with economic goals, they are aiming their efforts at the ecologically sound utilization of a variety of forest products, both wood and non-wood, thus creating an economic motivation for the total protection of rain forests. The use of select, small products, such as medicinal species and ornamental plants, can offer economic as well as ecological advantages. For example, the low biomass of such products can be paired to high added market value at the same time that their extraction from the forest is least disruptive. Based on the assumption that more valuable forest products likely occur in habitats with higher biodiversity, the innovative canopy farming concept could open up the rich canopy potential for ecologically sound utilization. In a Costa Rican forest, we conducted a feasibility study focusing on ornamental epiphytic orchids as exemplary canopy products. Exploration of in situ orchid production techniques and marketing opportunities suggests concrete possibilities for sustainable utilization of rain forest canopies.
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