Drawing A Link Between Genetic Diversity And Medicinal Compounds: A Market Based Approach To Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) Conservation


Max Olszack-Marewski
Presented: Spring 2015
Committee: JJ Apodaca, Steve Cartier, Dave Ellum

Global biodiversity is threatened by a growing number of effects ranging from climate changes to human development, and pollution. It is commonly held that increases in droughts, flooding, severe fluctuating temperatures, and more are threatening large numbers of ecologically and economically important ecosystems, habitats, plants, and animals. Less well known are the impacts of poaching and overharvest on rare and important species. Medicinal trade markets have long been at the crux of unsustainable harvest and extreme overuse of threatened and endangered medicinal herbs. Increasing demand coupled with dwindling supply fetches soaring prices for medicinal species, giving way to rampant poaching and overharvest. New management methods are needed to address proper conservation of these rare species, while meeting global market demands. Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, is one of the most popular medicinal herbs and is facing reduced population sizes and frequencies. Goldenseal harbors two secondary metabolites,hydrastine and berberine, for defense that are tied to its medicinal qualities. Currently, increasing rates of overharvest threaten the viability of populations, subjecting them to elevated levels of genetic isolation, inbreeding depression, and genetic drift. Conservation efforts have been focusing on preserving genetic diversity as a means to protect a threatened or endangered species. The medicinal market values the medicinal properties of goldenseal higher than the importance of genetic diversity. This study shows that the medicinal quality (concentration) of goldenseal is correlated to its genetic diversity
(R² = 0.83391, p = 0.0110). These results can better inform management practices for both the conservation and cultivation of goldenseal for the future. Cultivation of genetically diverse, legally sourced populations will yield higher medicinal quality products, shifting harvest from wild genetically dilute populations, allowing them time to recover.