Ethnobotany and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity

Ethnobotany and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity

Edited by Thomas J.S. Carlson and Luisa Maffi
Advances in Economic Botany Vol. 15
New York Botanical Garden Press, 2004
356 pp.

Ethnobotany and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity explores the intersection of two germane fields of knowledge and action. These are the long-standing field of ethnobiology (including ethnobotany), which is concerned with how human societies around the world perceive, classify, name, and make use of plants and animals in their local environments, and the emerging field of biocultural diversity, which views natural systems as biocultural systems — systems that have been jointly and synergistically shaped by both biological and cultural dynamics.

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Ethnobiology has focused centrally on traditional environmental knowledge, beliefs, and practices. In turn, biocultural diversity has shone the spotlight on the relevance of traditional knowledge, beliefs, and practices for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Together, the two disciplines make a strong case for the recognition that much of the biodiversity found in the world’s ecoregions (including in ecosystems often thought to be “untouched,” such as tropical rain forests) is actually anthropogenic — the product of the co-evolutionary interactions of people and their ecological niches over long periods of time. From this recognition arises the awareness that the conservation of biologically rich and/or unique areas is inextricably linked to the continued vitality of the human cultures that have helped shape and maintain those areas for generations.

The volume includes case studies from the tropical regions of South America, Africa, and Asia. Part 1 of the book focuses on Indigenous knowledge and the creation and conservation of biodiversity. Part 2 deals with the knowledge and sustainable use of traditional plant resources. Part 3 tackles critical issues that pertain to the ethics of ethnobiological research and of bioprospecting drawing from Indigenous knowledge.

Contributors: Thomas J. Carlson, Luisa Maffi, Stanford Zent, Eglée López-Zent, Manuel Lizarralde, Glenn Shepard Jr., Douglas W. Yu, Bruce W. Nelson, Terry C.H. Sunderland, Anthony B. Cunningham, S.K. Choge, Jennifer C. Sowerwine, Miguel Alexiades, Kelly Bannister, Katherine Barrett