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Very High Food Plant Diversity among Ethnic Groups in Northern Thailand

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  • Prateep Panyadee, the Botanical Garden Organization
  • ,
  • Prasit Wangpakapattanawong, Chiang Mai University
  • ,
  • Angkhana Inta, Chiang Mai University
  • ,
  • Henrik Balslev

The combination of the high biodiversity and many ethnicities in Thailand results in extensive ethnobotanical studies, especially in the northern part of the country. Here we have assembled 7620 records from 60 references regarding how plants are used for food among 14 ethnicities in northern Thailand. The uses are based on 1182 different plant species. Vegetables are the most common food category, which contributed more than 60% of all use-reports and involved nearly 900 species. This was followed by the dessert fruit category, which included about 350 species and over 1800 use-reports. The similarity among the different ethnicities was low and the number of uses and species recorded among different ethnicities were significantly related to the number of studies that had been conducted for each group. This implies that additional ethnobotanical studies are still needed in order to conserve and compile the valuable traditional knowledge related to food plants. Many exotic species are now an important part of traditional knowledge, whereas rare endemic species are uncommon among wild food plants. This situation leads to a loss of traditional knowledge about food plants and reduced awareness of their importance. As a key to using this great reservoir of food for local people, traditional knowledge related to local wild food plants can contribute to the zero-hunger goal of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). More studies on the nutrient content and health properties of these plants could lead to the development of new crops to meet present consumer demands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.

    Research areas

  • biodiversity, edible plants, ethnic diversity, food security, Thai hill tribes

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