What is Biocultural Diversity? A Theoretical Review



Over the past decade, scholars from various fields have increasingly emphasized the detrimental effects of global socioeconomic processes on biodiversity. The industrial revolution, the demographic explosion of Homo sapiens, and the rise of the global exchange economy are all implicated as major factors that influence the loss of species diversity. From the late 1980s onward, biosystematics and conservation biology have successfully brought this concern to the attention of the public. Biodiversity is increasingly recognized as an essential resource on which families, communities, and nations depend. Biologists, ecologists, and conservationists have further recognized that solutions to biological problems lie in the mechanisms of social, cultural, and economic systems, which has led to attempts to place a monetary value on species and ecosystems to calculate the cost of using and conserving biodiversity.


Cultural Practice Biodiversity Conservation Traditional Ecological Knowledge Livelihood Strategy Sacred Grove 


  1. Bank L. 2002. Beyond red and school: Gender, tradition and identity in the rural Eastern Cape. Journal of Southern African Studies 28(3): 631-649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkes F., Colding J. and Folk C. 2000. Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecological Applications 10(5): 1251-1268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berkes F. 2001. Religious traditions and biodiversity. Encyclopaedia of Biodiversity 5: 109-120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhabha H. 1990. The Location of Culture. Routledge: London.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell B., Mandondo A., Nermarundwe N., Sithole B., de Jong W., Luckert M. and Matose F. 2001. Challenges to proponents of common property resource systems: despairing voices from social forests in Zimbabwe. World Development 29: 589-600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell B.M. and Luckert M.K. 2002 (eds.), Uncovering the Hidden Harvest. Valuation Methods for Woodland and Forest Resources. Earthscan Publishing Ltd: London.Google Scholar
  7. Canclini G. 1995. Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.Google Scholar
  8. Cocks M.L. and Møller V. 2002. Use of indigenous and indigenised medicines to enhance personal well-being: a South African case study. Social Science and Medicine 54: 387-397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cocks M.L. and Wiersum K.F. 2003. The significance of biodiversity to rural households in Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 13: 39-58.Google Scholar
  10. Cocks M.L. and Dold A.P. 2004. A new broom sweeps clean: The economic and cultural value of grass brooms in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 14(1): 33-42.Google Scholar
  11. Cocks M.L., Bangay L., Wiersum K.F. and Dold A.P. 2006. Seeing the wood for the trees: the role of woody resources for the construction of gender specific household cultural artefacts in non-traditional communities in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Environment, Development and Sustainability 8: 519-533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cocks M.L., Dold A.P. and Grundy I.M. 2001. Challenges facing a community structure to implement CBNRM in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. African Studies Quarterly 5(3): http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v5/v5i3a4.htm.
  13. Cocks M.L., Bangay L., Wiersum K.F. and Dold A.P. (2006). Seeing the wood for the trees: The role of woody resources for the construction of gender specific household cultural artefacts in the non-traditional communities in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Environment, Development and Sustainability.Google Scholar
  14. Cunningham A.B. 1991. The herbal medicine trade: Resource depletion and environmental management for a hidden economy. In E. Preston-Whyte and C. Rogerson (eds.), South Africa’s Informal Economy. Oxford University Press: Cape Town, pp. 196-206.Google Scholar
  15. Cunningham A.B. 2001. Applied Ethnobotany: People, Wild Plant Uses and Conservation. Earthscan: London.Google Scholar
  16. Dasmann R.F. 1991. The importance of cultural and biological diversity. In M.L. Oldfield and J.B. Alcorn (eds.), Biodiversity: Cultural, Conservation, and Ecodevelopment. Westview Press: Boulder, Col., pp. 7-15.Google Scholar
  17. Dold A.P. and Cocks M.L. 2002. The trade in medicinal plants in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 98: 589-597.Google Scholar
  18. Douglas M. and Isherwood B. 1997. The World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption, 2nd ed. Routledge: London and New York.Google Scholar
  19. Ellen R.F. 1986. What black elk left unsaid: On the illusory images of green primitivism. Anthropology Today 2(6): 8-12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ellis F. 1998. Household strategies and rural livelihood diversification. Journal of Development Studies 35(1): 1-38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fabricius C., Koch E., Turner S. and Magome H. 2004. (eds.), Rights, Resources and Rural Development: Community-based Natural Resource Management in Southern Africa. Earthscan: London.Google Scholar
  22. Goebel A., Campbell B., Mukamuri B. and Veeman M. 2000. People, values and woodlands: A field report of emergent themes in interdisciplinary research in Zimbabwe. Agriculture and Human Values 17: 385-396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Groenfeldt D. 2003. The future of indigenous values: cultural realism in the face of economic development. Futures 35: 917-929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Infield M. 2001. Cultural values: a forgotten strategy for building community support for protected areas in Africa. Conservation Biology 15(3): 800-802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ingold T. 2002. Introduction to culture. In T. Ingold (ed.), Encyclopedia of anthropology. Routledge: London, pp. 327-350.Google Scholar
  26. Ingles A.W. 1997. The influence of religious beliefs and rituals on forest conservation in Nepal. In H. Seeland (ed.), Nature is Culture. Indigenous Knowledge and Socio-Cultural Aspects of Trees and Forests in non-European Cultures. Intermediate Technology Publication: London, pp. 57-67.Google Scholar
  27. Kalland A. 1999. A Japanese view on whales and whaling. In D.A. Posey (ed.), Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. UNEP and Intermediate Technology Publications: London, pp. 426-431.Google Scholar
  28. Kuper A. 1999. The Invention of Primitive Society: Transformations of an Illusion. Routledge: London.Google Scholar
  29. Kusel J. 2001. Assessing well-being in forest dependent communities. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 13(1/2): 359-384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laird S.A. 1999. Forests, culture and conservation. In D.A. Posey (ed.), Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. UNEP and Intermediate Technology Publications: London, pp. 345-396.Google Scholar
  31. Machlis G.E. 1992. The contribution of sociology to biodiversity research and management. Biological Conservation 62: 161-170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Maffi L. 2001. Introduction: On the interdependence of biological and cultural diversity. In L. Maffi and J.A. McNeely (eds.), On Biocultural Diversity. Linking Language Knowledge and the Environment. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington and London.Google Scholar
  33. Mander M. 1998. Marketing of indigenous medicinal plants in South Africa. A case study in KwaZulu-Natal. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): Rome, p. 151.Google Scholar
  34. McGregor D.P. 1999. Hawaiian subsistence, culture and spirituality, and natural biodiversity. In D.A. Posey (ed.), Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. UNEP and Intermediate Technology Publications: London, pp. 114-116.Google Scholar
  35. McNeely J.A. 2000. Cultural factors in conserving biodiversity. In A. Wilkes, H. Tillman, M. Salas, T. Grinter and Y. Shaoting (eds.), Links between Cultures and Biodiversity. Proceedings of the Cultures and Biodiversity Congress. Yunnan Science and Technology Press: China, pp. 128-142.Google Scholar
  36. Milton K. 1996. Environmentalism and Cultural Theory. Exploring the Role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse. Routledge: London and New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Motte-Florac E. and Ramos-Elorduy J. 2002. Is the traditional knowledge of insects important? In J.R. Stepp, F.S. Wyndham and R.K. Zarger (eds.), Ethnobiology and Biocultural Diversity. Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Ethnobiology. The International Society of Ethnobiology: Athens, pp. 207-224.Google Scholar
  38. Orlove B.S. and Brush S.B. 1996. Anthropology and the conservation of biodiversity. Annual Reviews Anthropology 25: 329-352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Posey D.A. 1989. The declaration of Belem. In D.A. Posey and W. Overal (eds.), Proceedings of the First International Congress of Ethnobiology. Museu Paraense Goeldi: Belem.Google Scholar
  40. Posey D.A. 1999. Cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity. A complementary contribution to the global biodiversity assessment. In D.A. Posey (ed.), Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. UNEP and Intermediate Technology Publications: London, pp. 1-19.Google Scholar
  41. Prins F.E. 1996. Prohibitions and pollution at a medicinal plant nursery: customary implications associated with ethnobotanical reserves in a conservative areas of KwaZulu-Natal. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities 8: 81-93.Google Scholar
  42. Rapport N. and Overing J. 2000. Social and Cultural Anthropology: The key concepts. Routledge: London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Redford K. H. 1990. The ecologically noble savage. Orion Nature Quarterly 9(3): 25-29.Google Scholar
  44. Ruiz-Perez M. and Arnold J.E.M. 1996 (eds.), Current Issues in Non-timber Forest Products Research. Centre for International Forestry Research: Bogor, Indonesia, 264 pp.Google Scholar
  45. Seeland K. 1997. Indigenous knowledge of trees and forests in non-European societies. In K. Seeland (ed.), Nature is Culture. Indigenous Knowledge and Socio-cultural Aspects of Trees and Forests in Non-European Cultures. Intermediate Technology Publication: London, pp. 101-113.Google Scholar
  46. Shackleton C.M., Shackleton S.E. and Cousins B. 2001. The role of land-based strategies in rural livelihoods: the contribution of arable production, animal husbandry and natural resource harvesting. Development Southern Africa 18: 581-604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shackleton C.M. and Shackleton S.E. 2004. Use of woodland resources for direct household provisioning. In M.J. Lawes, H.A.C Eeley, C.M. Shackleton and B.G.S. Geach (eds.), Indigenous Forests and Woodlands in South Africa: Policy, People and Practice. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press: Scottsville, pp. 195-225.Google Scholar
  48. Shengji P. 1999. The holy hills of the Dai. In D.A. Posey (ed.), Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. UNEP and Intermediate Technology Publications: London, pp. 381-382.Google Scholar
  49. Spiegel A. 1997. Continuities, culture and the commonplace searching for a new ethnographic approach in South Africa. In P. McAllister (ed.), Culture and the Commonplace. Anthropological Essays in Honour of David Hammond-Tooke. Witwatersrand University Press: Johannesburg, pp. 9-29.Google Scholar
  50. Sunderland T. and Ndoye O. (eds.), 2004. Forest Products, Livelihoods and Conservation. Case Studies of Non-Timber Forest Systems. Volume 2 - Africa. Centre for International Forestry Research: Bogar, Indonesia.Google Scholar
  51. Wiersum K.F. 2004. Use and conservation of biodiversity in East African forested landscapes. In P.A. Zuidema (ed.), Tropical Forests in Multi-Functional Landscapes. Proceedings of Seminar Series Issues in International Nature Conservation. Utrecht University Prince Bernard Centre for International Nature Conservation: Utrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 33-39.Google Scholar
  52. Wiersum K.F., Singhal R. and Benneker C. 2004. Common property and collaborative forest management; rural dynamics and evolution in community forestry regimes. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 14: 281-293.Google Scholar
  53. Wiersum K.F. and Shackleton C. 2005. Rural dynamics and biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. In A.F. Ros-Tonen and T. Dietz (eds.), Linking Global Conservation Objectives and Local Livelihood Needs: Lessons from Africa. Edwin Mellen Press: UK, pp. 67-92.Google Scholar
  54. Wiersum K.F., Husselman M., Dold A.P. and Cocks M.L. 2006. Cultivation of medicinal plants as a tool for biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation in the Amatola region, South Africa. In R.J. Bogers (ed.), Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. Proceedings of the Frontis Workshop on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. Wageningen, The Netherlands, 17-20 April 2005. http://www2.wur.nl/frontis/.
  55. Williams V. L., Balkwill K. and Witkowski E. T. F. 2000. Unravelling the commercial market for medicinal plants and plant parts on the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Economic Botany 54: 310-327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wollenberg E. and Ingles A. (eds.), 1998. Incomes from the Forest. Methods for the Development and Conservation of Forest Products for Local Communities. Centre for International Forestry Research: Bogor, Indonesia.Google Scholar
  57. Wood A., Stedman-Edwards P. and Mang J. 2000. The Root Causes of Biodiversity Loss. Earthscan Publications Ltd: London and Sterling.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic Research, Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations