Ethnobotany and Biodiversity Conservation

Ethnobotany and Biodiversity Conservation

During the last decades, species extinction has increased at a frightening rate. Covering only 10% of the earth’s land surface, tropical forests are believed to harbor more than 50% of the planet’s species (Wilson, 1985). The need for the integration of local indigenous knowledge for a sustainable management and conservation of natural resources receives more and more recognition (Posey, 1992; Pimbert and Pretty, 1995). Moreover, increased emphasis is being placed on possible economic benefits, especially of the medicinal use of tropical forest products, instead of pure timber harvesting—an approach particularly appealing to countries with difficult economic conditions. Most research efforts, due to lack of manpower, time, and resources, focus only on either “biodiversity assessments” or ethnobotanical inventories, or try to implement management and use measures without having a sound scientific base to do so. Often, the needs of the local populations (e.g., their dependence on plant resources for health care) are entirely ignored.