Department of Biology

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Henrik Balslev

Geospatial patterns in traditional knowledge serve in assessing intellectual property rights and benefit-sharing in northwest South America

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  • Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, Departamento de Biología, Área de Botánica, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Calle Darwin 2, ES- 28049 Madrid, Spain., Denmark
  • Narel Paniagua-Zambrana, Herbario Nacional de Bolivia, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Campus Universitario, Bolivia, Plurinational State of
  • J.-C. Svenning
  • Henrik Balslev
  • Manuel J Macía, Departamento de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain., Denmark
Ethnopharmacological relevance Without an understanding of the geography of traditional knowledge, implementing the Nagoya Protocol and national or regional strategies for benefit-sharing with local and indigenous communities will be difficult. We evaluate how much traditional knowledge about medicinal palm (Arecaceae) uses is unique and how much is shared across (i) four countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), (ii) two cultural groups (Amerindian and non-Amerindian), (iii) 52 Amerindian tribes, (iv) six non-Amerindian groups, (v) 41 communities, and (vi) individuals in the 41 communities. Materials and methods We first sampled traditional knowledge about palms from 255 references and then carried out 2201 field interviews using a standard protocol. Using the combined data set, we quantified the number of “singletons” that were unique to one of the analyzed scales. For the 41 communities, we evaluated how many uses were cited by <10% and by ≥50% of informants. We performed a Kruskal–Wallis test to evaluate whether the number of unshared uses (cited by <10%) differed significantly in relation to the informants׳ gender and degree of expertise, and performed a two-way ANOVA to test for differences in the number of unshared and shared uses accounted for by the five birth cohorts. Results We found that most knowledge was not shared among countries, cultural groups, tribes, communities, or even individuals within them. Still, a minor knowledge component was widely shared, even across countries. General informants cited a significantly higher number of unshared uses than experts, whereas no significant differences were found in the number of unshared uses cited by men and women or by different age groups. Conclusion Our region-wide analysis highlights the geospatial complexity in traditional knowledge patterns, underscoring the need for improved geographic insight into the ownership of traditional knowledge in areas where biocultural diversity is high. This high geographic complexity needs consideration when designing property right protocols, and calls for countrywide compilation efforts as much localized knowledge remains unrecorded.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Pages (from-to)58–65
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2014

    Research areas

  • Nagoya Protocol, Convention on Biological Diversity, Biocultural diversity, Ethnobotany, Indigenous people, South America, Medicinal plants, Amazon

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