The geography of wild American ginseng in North Carolina, USA : terroir, site selection efficiency, and implications for environmental preservation

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Mehrnaz Khademian (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Rick Bunch

Abstract: Wild American ginseng is the root part of a family of plants called Panax, and is primarily used as a medicinal herb, and is found only in the Northern Hemisphere. Wild American ginseng grows mainly in the understory of the eastern deciduous forests in North America, and has a growing high demand in the Asian market, which, in turn, has led to the formation of very high prices for this species in the market. These high prices have provided strong incentives for illegal harvest of wild American ginseng, resulting in a high harvest pressure on the plant in the wild, while harvesting ginseng (which is the root part of the plant) is fatal to the whole plant, which has consequently shrunk the population size of this plant and placed the species in the danger of extinction. That is, “the growing market for wild American ginseng in Asia” (which has increased the market demand for wild American ginseng) as well as the scarcity of this plant in the wild due to “growing illegal harvest” (which has decreased the market supply of this plant) have been simultaneously pushing up the price of American ginseng in the market, which, unfortunately in turn, increases incentives even further for illegal harvest of this soon-to-be-extinct species in a vicious-circular manner. To prevent this extinction from occurring, there needs to be research studies conducted on the geography of wild American ginseng to identify the spatial distribution of the suitable habitat of the plant in wild. Additionally, such research can provide advice on what conditions are required and what regions are suitable for cultivating it in farms, introducing an alternative to the wild American ginseng to decrease the harvesting pressure on its wild counterpart, breaking the vicious circle described above. In view of this, the objective of the present study is to analyze different habitat variables to develop a predictive model that captures geographical areas possessing the most suitable habitat for wild American ginseng growth in the in state of North Carolina. This study develops models by employing three popular geospatial methods, including Binary Screening method, Ordinal Ranking, and Weighted Linear Combination method, to carry out a capability analysis and mapping for wild American ginseng in North Carolina. These methods have proven decent predictability powers in the literature of site suitability. After building such models, the models were validated by using the data of the known locations of wild American ginseng plant in North Carolina. Developing such models would help us gain a more comprehensive understanding of where the plant naturally grows and would shed light on how government agencies can more effectively and more efficiently plan for law enforcement activities to better protect this plant from illegal harvest. The general pattern of our results suggests that western NC counties such as Jackson, Haywood, Transylvania, Henderson, Cherokee, and Ash are some of the most suitable geographical areas for wild American ginseng to grow. The result of our model validation analysis and comparing our models’ predictions with the observations made of wild American ginseng in nature show that the Binary Screening method’s predictions match with almost 96% of the observations made and reported in nature. This suggests that the influential natural factors necessary for wild American ginseng are more of complementary factors to each other than being substitutes, meaning that they all must exist in the environment for it to grow, and it could not be that the lack of one natural factor can be compensated by the abundance of another natural factor. In addition, the results of our sensitivity analysis imply that the shade-related factors and spatial factors play very important roles in predicting suitable areas for wild American ginseng to grow in nature in the context of North Carolina, meaning that the more weight given to these factors, the higher the predictability of the model (i.e., the higher the consistency level of the model predictions and observations made in the real world). KEYWORDS: Ginseng, Wild American Ginseng, GIS, Binary Screening, Ordinal Ranking, Weighted Linear Combination, Sensitivity Analysis.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Ginseng, Wild American Ginseng, GIS, Binary Screening, Ordinal Ranking, Weighted Linear Combination, Sensitivity Analysis
American ginseng $x Geographical distribution $z North Carolina
American ginseng $x Protection $z North Carolina

Email this document to