Human Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 185–200 | Cite as

Biocultural Diversity: Moving Beyond the Realm of ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Local’ People

  • Michelle CocksEmail author

During the past decade the relationship between biodiversity and human diversity has received increased attention, resulting in the identification of what the Declaration of Belém calls an ‘inextricable link’ between biological and cultural diversity. Although the term biocultural diversity, introduced to denote this link, is being used increasingly, there has been little critical reflection on what it precisely refers to. I argue that it is used with particular reference to ‘indigenous traditional’ people, but that there is scope for extending its application within biocultural discourse. I therefore review the concept of culture and discuss what constitutes cultural values of the natural environment. I conclude that the concept of culture must be understood as involving a dynamic process of transcultural exchange and constant re-articulations of tradition resulting in the persistence of certain cultural practices. This approach ultimately reveals that the concept of biocultural diversity is also applicable to non-indigenous traditional communities.

Key Words

natural environment biocultural diversity indigenous culture cultural values 



The author wishes to acknowledge the invaluable assistance Dr K.F. Wiersum provided on the preparation of this manuscript. Dr G. Persoon, Prof. R.C.G. Palmer, Mr T. Dold, Prof. C. Shackleton, and Mr M. Greenland are also thanked for comments on earlier drafts. Thanks are also extended to three anonymous referees for their useful comments. Funding to carry out this review was provided by the IFS (International Foundation of Science).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER)Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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