Economic Botany

, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 314–329 | Cite as

Plant Knowledge and Current Uses of Woody Flora in Three Cultural Groups of the Brazilian Semiarid Region: Does Culture Matter?

  • Dayanne Támela Nogueira Soares
  • Julia Caram Sfair
  • Victoria Reyes-García
  • Cristina Baldauf
Article
  • 136 Downloads

Abstract

Patterns of plant use in human populations are context-specific and influenced by many different ecological and social factors like plant diversity and availability, and gender, age, and household structure. The aim of this study is to evaluate current levels of knowledge and use of native plant species in different sociocultural groups living in the same ecological area. We examine the association between an individual’s species knowledge and use and (1) species availability and (2) individual age, gender, and group pertinence. Data were collected through interviews with three different groups living in the municipality of Açu, Rio Grande do Norte (n = 233): an urban community, a local community of fishers, and a traditional community of self-identified indigenous people (Caboclos de Açu). The results show no correlation between knowledge/use and resource availability. Elders know and use more species than younger interviewees. Men know more species than women, but there is no difference between the number of species used by men and women. Group pertinence was related to both current levels of species knowledge and use: the urban community had less knowledge of the flora than the local and traditional communities. Regarding species uses, the traditional community uses more plants than the local community, and informants in the urban community use the least. Our results dovetail recent anthropological research suggesting that, despite other important cultural changes, the Caboclos de Açu continue to maintain at least part of their traditional knowledge system, probably because they depend on the use of plant resources for their livelihood. Overall, our results highlight the predominance of culture above the environment in driving plant use and knowledge.

Key Words:

Dry tropical forests ethnobotany traditional ecological knowledge traditional populations. 

Resumo

Os padrões de uso de plantas em populações humanas são contexto-específicos, sendo influenciados por diferentes fatores sociais e ecológicos tais como a diversidade e disponibilidade das espécies vegetais, gênero, idade e estrutura do agregado familiar. O objetivo desse estudo é avaliar os níveis atuais de conhecimento e uso de plantas em diferentes grupos socioculturais vivendo na mesma área ecológica. Nós examinamos a associação entre o conhecimento individual e (1) disponibilidade das espécies e (2) idade, gênero e grupo social. Os dados foram coletados através de entrevistas com três grupos moradores do município de Açu, no estado do Rio Grande do Norte (n = 233): uma comunidade urbana, uma comunidade local de pescadores artesanais e uma comunidade tradicional que se auto-reconhece como indígena (Caboclos de Açu). Os resultados demonstraram a ausência de correlações entre o conhecimento/uso e a disponibilidade de recursos. Os entrevistados mais velhos conhecem e usam mais espécies que os mais jovens. Homens conhecem mais espécies que as mulheres, mas não foi encontrada diferença no número de espécies atualmente utilizadas por homens e mulheres. O pertencimento aos diferentes grupos sociais está relacionado tanto ao conhecimento quanto ao uso das espécies: a comunidade urbana tem conhecimento inferior ao encontrado nas comunidades local e tradicional. Em relação ao uso de espécies, a comunidade tradicional usa mais espécies que a comunidade local, enquanto os informantes da comunidade urbana são os que usam menos. Nossos resultados estão de acordo com pesquisas antropológicas recentes as quais afirmam que, apesar de outras mudanças culturais importantes, os Caboclos de Açu continuam mantendo vivo pelo menos parte de seu sistema de conhecimento tradicional, provavelmente porque eles dependem do uso de recursos vegetais para seus meios de vida. Em geral, nossos resultados sugerem a predominância da cultura sobre o ambiente influenciando o uso e o conhecimento sobre espécies vegetais.

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors are indebted to the interviewees for their collaboration and for sharing their knowledge. Thanks also to Martinho Alves de Andrade Junior (FUNAI representative) and Antonio Mauro Guimarães dos Anjos (FLONA Açu chief) for the support during fieldwork and to Michael Hrncir (UFERSA) for providing the photos used in the check-list.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dayanne Támela Nogueira Soares
    • 1
  • Julia Caram Sfair
    • 2
  • Victoria Reyes-García
    • 3
    • 4
  • Cristina Baldauf
    • 1
  1. 1.Ethnoecology and Biodiversity LaboratoryFederal Rural University of Semiarid Region (UFERSA)MossoróBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Plant BiologyFederal University of Pernambuco (UFPE)RecifeBrazil
  3. 3.Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA)BarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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