Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1785–1801 | Cite as

Correspondence between Scientific and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Rain Forest Classification by the Non-Indigenous Ribereños in Peruvian Amazonia

  • K. J. HalmeEmail author
  • R. E. Bodmer
Original Paper


Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is a potential source of ecological information. Typically TEK has been documented at the species level, but habitat data would be equally valuable for conservation applications. We compared the TEK forest type classification of ribereños, the non-indigenous rural peasantry of Peruvian Amazonia, to a floristic classification produced using systematically collected botanical data. Indicator species analysis of pteridophytes in 300 plots detected two forest types on non-flooded tierra firme, each associated with distinct soil texture and fertility, and one forest type in areas subject to flooding. Nine TEK forest types were represented in the same set of plots. Each TEK forest type was consistently (>82%) associated with one of the three floristic classes and there were also clear parallels in the ecological characterizations of the forest types. Ribereños demonstrated clear preferences for certain forest types when selecting sites for slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting. Our results indicate that the non-tribal inhabitants of Amazonia possess valuable TEK that could be used in biodiversity inventories and wildlife management and conservation for characterizing primary rain forest habitats in Amazonia.


Amazonia Beta-diversity Traditional ecological knowledge Tropical rain forest Vegetation classification Wildlife habitat 



Traditional ecological knowledge


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



We are indebted to Gilberto Asipali; Jorge Pacaya and the inhabitants of Nueva Esperanza for sharing their knowledge with us. Hanna Tuomisto and Kalle Ruokolainen made valuable comments to the manuscript. K.H. is grateful to Helsingin Sanomain 100-vuotissäätiö, Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth’s Foundation and the Academy of Finland (through grants to H. Tuomisto and K. Ruokolainen) for financial support. Field work was conducted as part of R.B.’s wildlife conservation program funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society.


  1. Anderson AB (1981) White-sand vegetation of Brazilian Amazonia. Biotropica 13:199–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balick MJ (1996) Transforming ethnobotany for the new millennium. Ann Mo Bot Gard 83:58–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berlin B (1973) Folk systematics in relation to biological classification and nomenclature. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 4:259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bodmer RE, Puertas PE (2000) Community-based comanagement of wildlife in the Peruvian Amazon. In: Robinson JG, Bennett EL (eds) Hunting for sustainability in tropical forests. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 395–409Google Scholar
  5. Carneiro RL (1978) The knowledge and use of rain forest trees by the Kuikuru Indians of central Brazil. In: Ford RI (ed) The nature and status of ethnobotany. Anthropological Papers no. 67, Museum of Anthropology. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, pp 201–216Google Scholar
  6. Clark DA, Clark DB, Sandoval R, Vinicio Castro M (1995) Edaphic and human effects on landscape-scale distributions of tropical rain forest palms. Ecology 76:2581–2594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clark DB, Clark DA, Read JM (1998) Edaphic variation and the mesoscale distribution of tree species in a neotropical rain forest. J Ecol 86:101–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clark DB, Palmer MW, Clark DA (1999) Edaphic factors and the landscape-scale distributions of tropical rain forest trees. Ecology 80:2662–2675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Condit R (1996) Defining and mapping vegetation types in mega-diverse tropical forests. Trends Ecol Evol 11:4–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Emmons LH (1984) Geographic variation in densities and diversities of non-flying mammals in Amazonia. Biotropica 16:210–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Encarnación F (1985) Introducción a la flora y vegetación de la Amazonia peruana: estado actual de los estudios, medio natural y ensayo de una clave de determinación de las formaciones vegetales en la llanura amazónica. Candollea 40:237–252Google Scholar
  12. Ferrier S (2002) Mapping spatial pattern in biodiversity for regional conservation planning: where to from here? Syst Biol 31:331–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fine P, Mesones I, Coley PD (2004) Herbivores promote specialization by trees in Amazonian forests. Science 305:663–665CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Fleck DW, Harder JD (2000) Matses Indian rainforest habitat classification and mammalian diversity in Amazonian Peru. J Ethnobiol 20:1–36Google Scholar
  15. Frechione J, Posey DA, da Silva LF (1989) The perception of ecological zones and natural resources in the Brazilian Amazon: an ethnoecology of Lake Coari. Adv Econ Bot 7:260–282Google Scholar
  16. Gentry AH (1981) Distributional patterns and an additional species of the Passiflora vitifolia complex: Amazonian species diversity due to edaphically differentiated communities. Plant Syst Evol 137:95–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gentry AH (1988) Changes in plant community diversity and floristic composition on environmental and geographical gradients. Ann Mo Bot Gard 75:1–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hellier A, Newton AC, Ochoa Gaona S (1999) Use of indigenous knowledge for rapidly assessing trends in biodiversity: a case study of Chiapas, Mexico. Biodivers Conserv 8:869–889CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hernandez-Stefanoni JL, Ponce-Hernandez R (2004) Mapping the spatial distribution of plant diversity indices in tropical rain forest using multi-spectral satellite image classification and field measurements. Biodivers Conserv 13:2599–2621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hess LL, Melack JM, Novo EMLM, Barbosa CCF, Gastil M (2003) Dual-season mapping of wetland inundation and vegetation for the central Amazon basin. Remote Sens Environ 87:404–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Higgins MA, Ruokolainen K (2004) Rapid tropical forest inventory: a comparison of techniques based on inventory data from western Amazonia. Conserv Biol 18:799–811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Holman EW (2002) The relation between folk and scientific classifications of plants and animals. J Classif 19:131–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoorn C (1993) Marine incursion and the influence of Andean tectonics on the Miocene depositional history of northwestern Amazonia: results of a palynostratigraphic study. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 105:267–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huntington HP (2000) Using traditional ecological knowledge in science: methods and applications. Ecol Appl 10:1270–1274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huntington HP, Suydam RS, Rosenberg DH (2004) Traditional knowledge and satellite tracking as complementary approaches to ecological understanding. Environ Conserv 31:177–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Janzen DH (1974) Tropical blackwater rivers, animals, and mast fruiting by the dipterocarpaceae. Biotropica 6:69–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jinxiu W, Hongmao L, Huabin H, Lei G (2004) Participatory approach for rapid assessment of plant diversity through folk classification system in a tropical rain forest: case study in Xishuangbanna, China. Conserv Biol 18:1139–1142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kalliola R, Linna A, Puhakka M, Salo J, Räsänen M (1993) Mineral nutrients from fluvial sediments in the Peruvian Amazonia. Catena 20:333–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kvist LP, Nebel G (2001) A review of Peruvian flood plain forests: ecosystems, inhabitants and resource use. For Ecol Manage 150:3–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mackinson S (2001) Integrating local and scientific knowledge: an example in fisheries science. Environ Manage 27:533–545CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Malleux J (1975) Mapa forestal del Peru (Memoria explicativa). Univ. Nacional Agraria, Lima, p 184Google Scholar
  32. Marengo JA (1998) Climatología de la zona de Iquítos, Perú. In: Kalliola R, Flores Paitan S (eds) Geoecología y desarrollo amazónico – Estudio integrado en la zona de Iquítos, Perú, vol 114. Annales Universitatis Turkuensis Ser A II, pp 35–57Google Scholar
  33. Messing I, Hoang Fagerström MH (2001) Using farmer’s knowledge for defining criteria for land qualities in biophysical land evaluation. Land Degrad Dev 12:541–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Oudwater N, Martin A (2003) Methods and issues in exploring local knowledge of soils. Geoderma 111:387–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Parker EP (1989) A neglected human resource in Amazonia: the Amazon caboclo. In: Posey DA, Balée W (eds) Resource management in Amazonia: indigenous and folk strategies. Advances in Economic Botany, vol 7. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, pp 249–259Google Scholar
  36. Parker E, Posey D, Frechione J, da Silva LF (1983) Resource exploitation in Amazonia: ethnoecological examples from four populations. Ann Carnegie Mus 52:163–203Google Scholar
  37. Peres CA (2000) Evaluating impact and sustainability of subsistence hunting at multiple Amazonian forest sites. In: Robinson JG, Bennett EL (eds) Hunting for sustainability in tropical forests. Columbia University Press, New York, pp 31–56Google Scholar
  38. Phillips OL, Nuñes Vargas P, Lorenzo Monteagudo A, Peña Cruz A, Chuspe Zans M-L, Galiano Sanchez W, Yli-Halla M, Rose S (2003) Habitat association among Amazonian tree species: a landscape scale approach. J Ecol 91:757–775CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Phuthego TC, Chanda R (2004) Traditional ecological knowledge and community-based natural resource management: lessons from a Botswana wildlife management area. Appl Geogr 24:57–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pires JM, Prance GT (1985) Notes on the vegetation types of the Brazilian Amazon. In: Prance GT, Lovejoy TE (eds) Key environments: Amazonia. Pergamon Press, Oxford, pp 109–145Google Scholar
  41. Pitman N, Vriesendorp C, Moskovits D (eds) (2003) Perú: Yavarí. Rapid Biological Inventories Report 11. The Field Museum, Chicago, p 282Google Scholar
  42. Poizat G, Baran E (1997) Fishermen’s knowledge as background information in tropical fish ecology: a quantitative comparison with fish sampling results. Environ Biol Fishes 50:435–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Posey DA (1983) Indigenous ecological knowledge and development of the Amazon. In: Moran E (ed) The dilemma of Amazonian development. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, pp 225–257Google Scholar
  44. Ruokolainen K, Tuomisto H (1998) Vegetación natural de la zona de Iquitos. In: Kalliola R, Flores Paitan S (eds) Geoecología y desarrollo amazónico – Estudio integrado en la zona de Iquítos, Perú, vol 114. Annales Universitatis Turkuensis Ser A II, pp 253–365Google Scholar
  45. Ruokolainen K, Linna A, Tuomisto H (1997) Use of Melastomataceae and pteridophytes for revealing phytogeographic patterns in Amazonian rain forests. J Trop Ecol 13:243–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Salo J, Kalliola R, Häkkinen I, Mäkinen Y, Niemelä P, Puhakka M, Coley PD (1986) River dynamics and the diversity of Amazon lowland forest. Nature 322:254–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Salovaara KJ, Cárdenas GG, Tuomisto H (2004) Forest classification in an Amazonian rainforest landscape using pteridophytes as indicator species. Ecography 27:689–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Salovaara K, Thessler S, Malik RN, Tuomisto H (2005) Classification of Amazonian primary rain forest vegetation using Landsat ETM+ satellite imagery. Remote Sens Environ 97:39–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sheil D, Lawrence A (2004) Tropical biologists, local people and conservation: new opportunities for collaboration. Trends Ecol Evol 19:634–638CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Shepard GH Jr, Yu DW, Nelson BW (2004) Ethnobotanical ground-truthing and forest diversity in the western Amazon. Adv Econ Bot 15:133–171Google Scholar
  51. Shepard GH Jr, Yu DW, Lizarralde M, Italiano M (2001) Rain forest habitat classification among the Matsigenka of the Peruvian Amazon. J Ethnobiol 21:1–38Google Scholar
  52. Svenning JC (1999) Microhabitat specialization in a species-rich palm community in Amazonian Ecuador. J Ecol 87:55–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. ter Steege H, Sabatier D, Castellanos H, van Andel T, Duivenvoorden J, de Oliveira AA, Ek R, Lilwah R, Maas P, Mori S (2000) An analysis of the floristic composition and diversity of Amazonian forests including those of the Guiana Shield. J Trop Ecol 16:801–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tuomisto H, Ruokolainen K (1994) Distribution of Pteridophyta and Melastomataceae along an edaphic gradient in an Amazonian rain forest. J Veg Sci 5:25–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tuomisto H, Ruokolainen K (1998) Uso de especies indicadoras para determinar características del bosque y de la tierra. In: Kalliola R, Flores Paitan S (eds) Geoecología y desarrollo amazónico – Estudio integrado en la zona de Iquítos, Perú, vol 114. Annales Universitatis Turkuensis Ser A II, pp 481–491Google Scholar
  56. Tuomisto H, Ruokolainen K, Kalliola R, Linna A, Danjoy W, Rodriguez Z (1995) Dissecting Amazonian biodiversity. Science 269:63–66CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Tuomisto H, Ruokolainen K, Aguilar M, Sarmiento A (2003a) Floristic patterns along a 43-km long transect in an Amazonian rain forest. J Ecol 91:743–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tuomisto H, Poulsen AC, Ruokolainen K, Moran RC, Quintana C, Celi J, Cañas G (2003b) Linking floristic patterns with soil heterogeneity and satellite imagery in Ecuadorian Amazonia. Ecol Appl 13:352–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Valencia R, Balslev H, Mino GPY (1994) High tree alpha-diversity in Amazonian Ecuador. Biodivers Conserv 3:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vásquez R, Gentry AH (1987) Limitaciones del use de nombres vernaculares en los inventarios forestales de la Amazonia Peruana. Rev Fores Peru 14:109–120Google Scholar
  61. Vormisto J (2002) Palms as rainforest resources: how evenly are they distributed in Peruvian Amazonia? Biodivers Conserv 11:1025–1045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vormisto J, Phillips O, Ruokolainen K, Tuomisto H, Vásquez R (2000) A comparison of fine-scale distribution patterns of four plant groups in an Amazonian rainforet. Ecography 23:349–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology, Durrell Institute of Conservation and EcologyUniversity of KentCanterbury, KentUK

Personalised recommendations