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Quantitative ethnobotany of forest dwellers: drivers of congruence in local names in Amazonia

2010Quantitative ethnobotany of forest dwellers: drivers of congruence in local names in AmazoniaPETERSON Debora (Brazil)deborapeterson@yahoo.com.br
Organisation:University of East Anglia, Norwich (UK) - Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Society (CPCP)Supervisor :Carlos Peres
Summary: Ethnobotany is the study of the relationships between human populations and plants, including how local people perceive, name, use and manage these resources. Ethnobotanical studies have focused on understanding how local knowledge could be influenced by the utility that plants may have to human populations and by the plants’ morpho-ecological parameters, such as size and abundance. Quantitative ethnobotany can be used to determine the factors that can explain local use and knowledge of plants and to understand patterns in this knowledge. This study investigated the congruence in trees’ local names between forest dwellers of two sustainable development reserves, in the Médio Juruá river, Amazonia, Brazil. These forest dwellers are descendents of rubber tappers and have been in contact with forest resources since the end of the eighteenth century, when they immigrated to Amazonia to take advantage of the opportunities to exploit rubber in the region. The contact with the Amazonian forests during the last one hundred and twenty years influenced their local ecological knowledge, which is resultant of their perceptions, uses and interactions with local forest resources. Ethnobotanical surveys with four local parataxonomists in an area of 6 ha including two types of forests resulted in 5099 identification events for trees of 46 families and 129 genera totalling 384 local names. Larger, more abundant and most useful trees were found to have a high influence on congruence in common names among local people. Most useful trees showed a trend in diversification in local names, with cases where the same common name overlapped more than two genera. In some cases, discrepancies between formal and local names reflected in variation in local knowledge between parataxonomists.
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