Ecological Characteristics of Ethnobotanical Sources

A well-known facet of ecosystems is that the edges—the boundaries or transitions from one ecosystem to another—often exhibit high levels of species richness or biodiversity. These transitional areas often show features of species composition, structure, and function representative of the ecosystems they transcend, as well as having their own unique array of species and characteristics. Cultural transitional areas—zones where two or more cultures converge and interact—are similarly rich and diverse in cultural traits, exhibiting cultural and linguistic features of each of the contributing peoples. This results in an increase in cultural capital, and resilience, by providing a wider range of traditional ecological knowledge and wisdom on which to draw, especially in times of stress and change. We propose that indigenous peoples whose living territories traverse ecological edges have a correspondingly increased access to economically important resources and therefore have a greater capacity for flexibility. Finally, we suggest that indigenous peoples are drawn to areas having a high incidence of ecological edges, and furthermore, that they actively create and maintain ecological edges. This practice provides them with a greater diversity of cultural capital and helps to maintain their flexibility and resilience. 

Ethnobotanical studies conducted in many parts of the world have found that local cultures are fully aware of the many useful species occurring in their ecosystem. This is particularly true of people living a subsistence lifestyle, that is, they gather, hunt, or grow all of the food, medicine, materials, and other necessities of their lives. This local knowledge has been gained by trial and error over long periods of time, and in most cases has been passed across generations through oral transmission. Indigenous knowledge is an extremely valuable cultural resource that ethnobotanists seek to understand, because so many useful plants and other organisms are known to local people. Unfortunately, this local, traditional knowledge is often rapidly lost once indigenous people become integrated into modern, materialistic society. It is important that local indigenous peoples be given the opportunity to conserve their own culture.

  • Predicting drug-drug interactions
  • Soil sampling and analysis
  • Sampling of woody plants

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