, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 355-368

The Impact of Traditional Lifestyle, Provenance and Contact History on Plant Use Knowledge and Management: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Two Small-Scale Societies from the Bolivian Amazon

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Abstract

It is well known that ethnobotanical knowledge can vary significantly among societies. However, it often remains difficult to fully capture the factors underlying differences in perceptions of usefulness. A quantitative ethnobotanical study was conducted in Indigenous Territory and National Park Isiboro-Sécure (TIPNIS), Bolivia, to compare the plant use knowledge and management of the Yuracarés and Trinitarios, two indigenous groups that share the same living environment. Results show that the Trinitarios have higher knowledge of plants from anthropogenic environments and maintain a significantly larger pharmacopoeia than the Yuracarés. By contrast, the Yuracarés are more knowledgeable of wild flora and particularly excel in their knowledge of wild food plants. I relate these differences to: (1) cultural heritage, customs and practices; (2) ethnomedicinal system; (3) (historical) mode of subsistence; (4) provenance; (5) history of contact with Western society; and (6) modernization and social position. I argue that although contemporary Yuracarés are semi-sedentary, their plant use knowledge and management reflect their previous semi-nomadic foraging lifestyle. Similarly, Trinitarios’ current plant use knowledge and management reflects their legacy of having developed one of the most advanced pre-Colombian agricultural societies in the tree savannahs of Moxos.