Economic Botany

, Volume 70, Issue 4, pp 380–393 | Cite as

Forty-five years later: The shifting dynamic of traditional ecological knowledge on Pantelleria Island, Italy

Article

Abstract

In 1969, Galt and Galt conducted an ethnobotanical survey in the community of Khamma on the volcanic island of Pantelleria, Italy. Since then, a number of botanical studies concerning the local wild flora and cultivation of the zibibbo grape and capers have been conducted, but none have investigated traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) regarding the use of wild plants and fungi. We documented the current TEK and practices concerning wild plants and fungi on the island, focusing on uses related to food and medicine with 42 in-depth interviews in six communities in June 2014. Our aim was to examine shifts in TEK, represented in terms of loss or gain of specific species uses, in comparison to the 1969 study. All interviews were conducted in person in Italian with prior informed consent. We employed two primary means of eliciting responses concerning traditional practices; informants were asked to: 1) free-list the most commonly used plants for wild foods, general medicine, and skin remedies; and 2) view and discuss a booklet composed of photos of species reported in the Galt and Galt study. In total, 86 botanical and 19 fungal species representing 53 families were cited. While many plant-based traditions have disappeared from daily practice, especially those related to traditional fishing and hunting, they remain in the memories of the eldest subset of the population. For example, one of the most pervasive species in the landscape, Opuntia ficus-indica, has current day uses that persist as a food source, but its past applications were much more diverse, and included manipulation into hunting snares for birds. Other predominant flora included a number of Euphorbia spp., whose toxic latex was regularly used as a fish poison. Fungi, on the other hand, nowadays represent an important source of wild food. In conclusion, we documented a decline in knowledge and practice of TEK related to ritual healing, livestock rearing, hunting and fishing practices and an increase in TEK concerning newly introduced edible fungi.

Key Words

Mediterranean medicinal plants Daphne gnidium Malva arborea Opuntia ficus-indica edible fungi Sicily 

Abstract (Italiano)

Nel 1969, Galt e Galt hanno condotto un’indagine etnobotanica presso la comunità di Khamma dell’isola vulcanica di Pantelleria, in Italia. Da allora, sono stati condotti una serie di studi botanici riguardanti la flora spontanea locale e la coltivazione della vite zibibbo ed i capperi, ma nessuno ha eseguito indagini relative alle conoscenze ecologiche tradizionali (TEK) per quanto riguarda l’uso delle piante selvatiche e dei funghi. Abbiamo documentato le attuali TEK e le pratiche sugli usi delle piante spontanee e dei funghi dell’isola, focalizzando l’attenzione sugli usi come alimento ed in campo medico, grazie a 42 interviste approndite, condotte in sei comunità nel giugno del 2014. Il nostro scopo era di esaminare i cambiamenti nelle TEK, rappresentati in termini di perdita o acquisizione dell’uso specifico di alcune specie, in confronto con lo studio del 1969. In totale, 86 specie di piante e 19 specie fungine incluse in 53 famiglie sono state citate dagli intervistati. Nonostante molte tradizioni legate alle piante siano scomparse dalla pratica quotidiana, in particolare quelle legate alla pesca tradizionale e la caccia, esse rimangono nei ricordi degli individui più anziani della popolazione. Ad esempio, una delle specie più diffuse nel paesaggio, Opuntia ficus-indica, viene oggi utilizzata esclusivamente come fonte di cibo, ma le sue applicazioni in passato erano molto più diversificate, e comprendevano anche la costruzione di trappole per la cattura di piccoli uccelli. La flora comprende un rilevante numero di Euphorbia spp., il cui lattice tossico veniva utilizzato come veleno per i pesci. I funghi, oggi rappresentano esclusivamente una fonte di cibo naturale. In conclusione, abbiamo osservato un declino relativamente alla conoscenza e la pratica di TEK relative alla medicina rituale, all'allevamento, alla caccia ed alla pesca, ed un incremento delle TEK che riguarda l‘utilizzo di funghi eduli.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Funding support for this study was provided by the Emory University Center for the Study of Human Health. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Municipality of Pantelleria and all Pantescan communities and people who agreed to participate in this study. We also thank Marco Caputo for assistance with field collection of voucher specimens.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Prior informed consent was always verbally obtained prior to conducting interviews, and the ethical standards of the Society for Economic Botany and International Society of Ethnobiology were followed.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1(DOCX 182 kb)

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Human HealthEmory University College of Arts and SciencesAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Emory HerbariumEmory University College of Arts and SciencesAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of DermatologyEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Agricultural and Forest SciencesUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly

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