Department of Biology

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Henrik Balslev

Amerindian and Afro-American perceptions of their traditional knowledge in the Chocó biodiversity hotspot

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  • Rodrigo Camara Leret
  • ,
  • Juan Copete Maturana, Universidad Tecnológica del Chocó, Colombia
  • Henrik Balslev
  • M Soto Gomez, Mexico
  • Manuel Macia, Spain
The Chocó biodiversity hotspot is one of the most biodiverse and threatened regions on Earth, yet the traditional knowledge (TK) of its inhabitants about biodiversity remains little studied. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) aims to integrate different knowledge systems, including scientific and TK, to assess the state of the planet's biodiversity. We documented the TK of three ethnic groups: Afro-Colombians (n=86 participants), and Amerindian Emberá (n=88) and Tsa’chila (n=52), focusing on their perceptions about (i) the most important palms, (ii) current vs. past uses, (iii) and TK transmission. We found 46 useful palm species and 520 different uses of palms. The species that were most important in local peoples’ views also had high use value, a commonly used quantitative index in ethnobotany. Although construction was the most commonly mentioned use, palm materials were absent in Afro-Colombian and Tsa’chila homes, and were being increasingly replaced in Emberá homes. In all three cultures, it was generally believed that TK was not being transmitted to the younger generations. In aggregate, the current perceptions of decreasing transmission of TK, decreasing use of forests, and intergenerational differences in perceptions in the Chocó could accelerate the erosion of TK, and therefore could ultimately limit the contribution of Amerindian and Afro-Colombian TK to IPBES’s goals of assessing on-the-ground changes in biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomic Botany
Pages (from-to)160-175
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • cultural change; ecosystem services; indigenous peoples; livelihood; local knowledge; plant valuation; quantitative ethnobotany; local perceptions.

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