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Cuicatec Ethnobotany: Plants and Subsistence in San Lorenzo Pápalo, Oaxaca

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Ethnobotany of the Mountain Regions of Mexico

Part of the book series: Ethnobotany of Mountain Regions ((ETMORE))

Abstract

An ethnoecological approach was conducted to identify the role of plants and animals in subsistence of the Cuicatec people. The study was carried out in the indigenous community of San Lorenzo Pápalo, Oaxaca, where we documented and analyzed local people’s knowledge about plants and animals and their local uses and management. This chapter focuses on the ethnobotanical research, while the study of interactions with fauna was published elsewhere. We interviewed 30 persons who are the heads of nearly 20% of the households of the community. All of them are Cuicatec speakers, and some are bilingual (Cuicatec and Spanish). An inventory of plants, their uses, frequency, and quantities extracted and consumed to satisfy different needs (mainly food, medicine, firewood, construction, and ornamentation) was documented, as well as the species preferred for those uses; then, based on the local nomenclature, we analyzed the Cuicatec folk classification of plants which was corroborated in the field. We explored the local perception of the territory and landscape, identifying 12 environmental units classified based on vegetation types and different anthropogenic areas. In those units we carried out ecological vegetation sampling, analyzing the distribution and abundance of useful plants as main indicators of their spatial availability, the species richness and diversity, and the relative ecological importance index of each species, according to their density, frequency and biomass in the sampling units. In addition, we documented the local knowledge about seasonal availability of useful products. With this information we examined possible risks over some species and potentialities of using different plant resources. A total of 520 plant species were recorded, 367 having one or more uses, 176 are fodder, 84 are edible plants, 73 medicines, and 47 are appreciated as ornamental plants, among other use types. We determined the human cultural importance of plant species through free listing techniques and then evaluated their extraction rates. Nearly 98.4% of plant species showed a restricted distribution through different vegetation types. Every type of vegetation provides differential diversity and products biomass. For instance, tropical deciduous forests and riparian vegetation are diverse, supplying different types of food, medicinal, ornamental plants, and fodder, whereas the coniferous and oak forests are main sources of fuelwood and materials for construction. It is remarkable that anthropogenic areas like crop fields, fallow agricultural areas, homegardens, and even the secondary vegetation are outstanding sources of some of the most important resources like edible and medicinal plants. In general, extraction rates of plant resources are low in relation to their spatial availability, except for the most important fuelwood species (Quercus conzatii and Quercus magnolifolia, among others), which are extracted at high rates and can be identified as species in risk that deserve regulations and particular studies to recommend sustainable forms of extraction. Biocultural, ecological, and ethnobiological studies may substantially contribute social and ecological information for constructing regulation systems by local decision makers.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT research project A1-S-14306), Mexico, the Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico (DGAPA, UNAM, research project IN206520 and IN224023), and the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO/GEF/FAO project ID 9389 770, research project RG023) for financial support.

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Solís, L., Casas, A. (2023). Cuicatec Ethnobotany: Plants and Subsistence in San Lorenzo Pápalo, Oaxaca. In: Casas, A., Blancas Vázquez, J.J. (eds) Ethnobotany of the Mountain Regions of Mexico. Ethnobotany of Mountain Regions. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-99357-3_55

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