Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1747-1759

First online:

Comparing Conservation Priorities for Useful Plants Among Botanists and Tibetan Doctors

  • Wayne LawAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Washington UniversityMissouri Botanical Garden Email author 
  • , Jan SalickAffiliated withMissouri Botanical Garden

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Perspectives of diverse constituencies need to be incorporated when developing conservation strategies. In Menri (Medicine Mountains) of the Eastern Himalayas, Tibetan doctors and professional botanists were interviewed about conservation of useful plants. We compare these two perspectives and find they differ significantly in conservation priorities (Wilcoxon Signed Ranks P < 0.05), both in how they prioritized, as well as the priorities themselves. Tibetan doctors first consider which plants are most important to their medical practice and, then secondarily, the conservation status of these plants. Additionally, perceptions of threatened medicinal plants differ among Tibetan doctors who received medical training in Lhasa, who were local trained, and who were self-taught. In contrast, professional botanists came to a consensus among themselves by first considering the conservation status of plants and then considering use. We conclude that, in order to effect community based conservation, opinions from both Tibetan doctors and professional botanists should be considered in establishing conservation priorities and sustainable conservation programs. Furthermore, we set our own research agenda based on combined perspectives.


Conservation Tibetan medicine Threatened plants Useful plants Tibetan doctors