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Sharing Ethnobotanical Knowledge in Traditional Villages: Evidence of Food and Nutraceutical “Core Groups” in Bali, Indonesia

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The island of Bali has several aga (indigenous) villages that have survived despite the pressures of an intense tourist industry and agricultural changes. A rich ethnobotanical culture persists, but the meaning of differences in traditional ethnobotanical knowledge (TEK) remains under-explored. We analyzed information obtained from interviews of inhabitants from diverse villages on food and nutraceutical plants to identify plant patterns, i.e., relevant plant groups with species sharing a similar occurrence. Through cluster analysis, we identified 12 main groups of species and found that species were grouped based on traditional knowledge and the use each community made of plants on the whole, and not on growth forms nor on specific uses. The frequency distribution of species clusters showed a bimodal trend, with several groups present only in few villages, and a few groups present in almost all villages. The latter are defined as “core groups,” and represent the shared TEK of each aga community. Other “satellite species groups” embodied in the local TEK were related to small isolated communities. Cultural erosion caused by modernization, with the consequent fragmentation of information, was judged to be one of the main causes of increasing TEK heterogeneity.

Abstract (Italian)

L’isola di Bali possiede diversi villaggi indigeni (aga) che sopravvivono nonostante la crescente pressione legata al turismo e ai cambiamenti agricoli. A Bali ancora esiste una ricca cultura etnobotanica, ma sarebbe utile comprendere il significato delle differenze fra i villaggi relativamente alla conoscenza etnobotanica tradizionale (CET). Sono state quindi analizzate le informazioni sulle piante alimentari e nutraceutiche, al fine di identificare rilevanti gruppi di specie con riferimento a un uso tradizionale nei villaggi. Sono stati definiti dodici principali gruppi di specie sulla base della similarità ottenuta dalla cluster analysis, che sembra essere influenzata dalla conoscenza specifica di ogni villaggio, basata sulle sue tradizioni piuttosto che dalla forma biologica né dall’uso per cui le piante sono coltivate. La frequenza di distribuzione dei gruppi di specie nei villaggi è risultata bimodale, con alcuni gruppi presenti solo in pochi villaggi e pochi presenti in quasi tutti. Questi ultimi sono stati definiti “gruppi nucleari” e rappresentano la CET condivisa da ogni comunità aga. Gli altri gruppi, definiti “gruppi satellite” sono riferiti alla CET di piccole comunità locali. L’erosione colturale, con la conseguente frammentazione, è definibile come una delle cause principali di tale eterogeneità.

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We also wish to express our gratitude to the informants who took part in our survey for sharing their knowledge and for their hospitality and assistance. Neil Ellwood revised the English language version.


We would like to thank the Italian Ministry for Higher Education and Research (MIUR) for financial support provided through Università Roma Tre.

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Correspondence to Lorenzo Traversetti.

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Caneva, G., Traversetti, L., Sujarwo, W. et al. Sharing Ethnobotanical Knowledge in Traditional Villages: Evidence of Food and Nutraceutical “Core Groups” in Bali, Indonesia. Econ Bot 71, 303–313 (2017).

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