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Plant materials have long been utilized for human use because of their wide range of physical properties and incredible mechanical efficiency as eco-friendly structures. One example of their use today is the practice of using the sturdy leaves of Pandanus tectorius for thatching purposes. An increase in modern demand for P. tectorius is pressuringfarmers to deviate from traditional harvesting methods in an attempt to increase leaf yield. With little knowledge of the repercussions of their new practice, modern farmers are pre-maturely harvesting leaves through heat-induced leaf drying while the leaves remain on the tree. In this study, life-history characteristics, physical and mechanical properties of P. tectorius leaves on Mo’orea, French Polynesia are examined to determine whether or not this deviation from traditional harvest methods reduces leaf efficacy as a thatching material. Quantitative measures of P. tectorius leaves suggest that pre-mature harvest does not alter the size of collected leaves for thatch because most leaves on a tree have already reached maximum growth. Heat-induced leaf drying, however, reduces the tensile strength of P. tectorius leaves by about 25%. Further research may find that this loss in leaf tensile strength may correlate to less robust roofing structures, hindered longevity and ultimately an increase in energy cost to repair and rebuild such structures.
This is a submission to PeerJ for review.
Leaf length, width, and thickness, corresponding to their respective distance from the apical meristem (leaf number)