Vascular plants, bryophytes, and lichens

The Adelegg - flora, vegetation and ethnobotany of a central European mountain landscape

The Adelegg with a altitude of up to 1129 m and an area of 112 km² is a mountain landscape that is mainly wooded today. Parts of the Adelegg mountain ridge belong to the 6.4 km² Adelegg fauna-flora habitat area (FFH no. 8326-341). Large parts are located in the 68.14 km² large Adelegg landscape protection area and associated tertiary foothills (CDDA no. 319441), as well as in the Adelegg bird protection area (VSG no. 8226-441).

The Adelegg lies north of the Allgäu Prealps and is a transitional landscape to the subalpine young moraine country. the region is not an offshoot of the alpine fold mountains, but part of an alluvial cone in the Molasse basin stretching between the Alps and the Swabian Jura, and was folded up only insignificantly during the formation of the Alps. The conglomerate molasses of the Adelegg consists of Nagelfluh and belongs to the Upper Freshwater Molasse that was deposited by the Ur-Iller in the Miocene, and mainly consists of material from the southern Central Alps. Adelegg includes the Adelegg mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, and the Bavarian areas of Hohentanner Wald, Kürnacher Wald, Buchenberger Wald and the Sonneneck mountain ridge.

While parts of the Adelegg are now under special protection as a Flora-Fauna Habitat area and bird sanctuary, the massif was used intensively in the past. After settlement by Benedictines in the Middle Ages, a large number of glassworks later followed, which cleared a large part of the forest areas for production. Species-rich plants developed on these clear-cuts. This change from forests to alpine meadows gives the Adelegg its special character. The mountain range is home to countless plant and animal species, for example chamois or wood grouse. Today, the Adelegg is mainly used for forestry and tourism.

The Adelegg is part of the biodiversity hotspot "Upper Swabian Hills and Adelegg", a young moraine landscape interspersed with glacial basins, lakes and moors with numerous crests and depressions. Characteristic of the young moraine landscape is the small-scale alternation of forest areas (mainly spruce forests) and intensively used agricultural areas (mainly grassland, but increasingly arable farming), which are interspersed with extensively used or unused wetlands. These are high and low moors with moor forests, meadow meadows and wet meadows, as well as spring moors, lakes and ponds that are connected to one another by watercourses. In the Adelegg area itself, steep slopes with extensive grazing and partly very natural montane hillside forests as well as Alps in the higher areas determine the landscape. In particular, the hillside forests rich in deadwood and the high altitudes favor a very species-rich avifauna.

On the one hand, our new project will examine in detail the flora (vascular plants, mosses, lichens, fungi) and recent vegetation of the Adelegg, on the other hand, the use of plant and fungal resources will be documented over the centuries, and this knowledge will be combined with current ethnobotanical and ethnomycological studies Adelegg residents added. On the one hand, this serves to document the historical change that Adelegg was exposed to and the recent global change, on the other hand, it creates the basis for future nature conservation and development measures, not least with regard to a possible designation of the area as a biosphere reserve.


Plants, lichens and bryophytes in Baden-Württemberg - taxonomy, distribution and use

Research on native plants i is also a top priority for the Botany team at the SMNK. This work has contributed to scientific research in Baden-Württemberg for decades and is reflected in a large number of extensive books.

The work "Flechten Baden-Württembergs" was published as early as 1987, followed by a new edition in 1995, as an overall presentation of all lichens in the state, with distribution maps and complete genus diagnoses, identification keys for all species, and data on ecology, distribution and endangerment of all in southwest Germany and far beyond The species protection work "Farn- und Blütenpflanzen Baden-Württembergs" in eight volumes followed in 1990. The work described all wild growing ferns and flowering plants in Baden-Württemberg with their characteristics, ecology, distribution and need for protection, and contained a distribution map for each species In the years 2000-2005 the three-volume series "Moose Baden-Württembergs" was published, and "Die Großpilze Baden-Württembergs", published between 2000-2010, completed the inventory of plants and fungi in the state.Many of the published volumes are now out of print, or only available second-hand at exorbitant prices daily.

While all works provide an excellent overview of the taxonomy, ecology, distribution and endangerment of the species discussed, any information on use is missing. This is all the more regrettable since we now know more about the use of plants and fungi worldwide, e.g. in the Caucasus, the Himalayas and the Andes, than in the Black Forest or Adelegg.

That should be remedied. Our new project "Plants, lichens and bryophytes in Baden-Württemberg - taxonomy, distribution and use" will try to collect information about historical, recent and potential future use ("local and traditional knowledge") of all plant and lichen species in Baden-Württemberg in the coming years.

Why is that important?

The incorporation of traditional knowledge into the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) was a fundamental milestone both in recognizing its value and importance and in demonstrating its close relationship to the protection and use of biological diversity. This convention recognizes the close interdependence that indigenous and local communities have for biological resources and stipulates that parties must respect, preserve and promote traditional knowledge relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Traditional knowledge is seen as a source of information for designing environmental policies related to biodiversity. As part of the Intergovernmental Scientific-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), scientific findings are supplemented with data from traditional knowledge in order to promote measures for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in a more effective and understandable manner. To this end, the creation of inventories of traditional knowledge on biodiversity should be widely promoted.

Our planned inventory of traditional knowledge about biodiversity focuses on traditional knowledge about Baden-Württemberg's plant and lichen wild biodiversity. The inventory collects previously published traditional knowledge from works where the knowledge was captured through direct data collection, e.g. through on-site interviews with local participants. Traditional knowledge is dynamic and has diffuse boundaries, i.e. it is always evolving. In order to preserve knowledge, there is an urgent need to promote the transmission of traditional knowledge to new generations.


Collections, digitization, nature conservation and global change

A decline in botanical collections and collection interests in recent decades is highly problematic. In an era of rapid climate change, botanical and other natural history collections contain more valuable data for understanding long-term changes and supporting conservation. Strengthening the collection, curation and data availability (digitization) is a primary goal of the Botany Department at the SMNK.

Plants are essential organisms. They produce oxygen, maintain soil quality and provide food and habitat for other organisms. They can reduce air pollution, have medicinal properties and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. They are all around us, can be beautiful and are deeply embedded in cultures around the world. But people don't want to study plants, and indeed the multiple roles that plants play in our daily lives are largely underestimated. The lack of interest in botany is a persistent problem and our own experience bears this out.

When we ask students about their interests, we often hear, "Everything but plants!". It was recognized as early as the 1960s that the general public, and indeed the wider scientific community, are often unaware of what modern botany and its major achievements are. Even among plant biologists themselves, the term "botany" has lost favor, largely due to its perceived historical and taxonomic connotations. Plant taxonomy and identification, a skill often associated with botanists, often lacks proper scientific and professional recognition. In parallel with this trend in science, public knowledge of plants and interest in the study of plant science has declined. The possible causes are complex, but factors such as how we perceive our environment, discrepancies between our perceptions of behavior, agency, and individuality in plants and animals, and the separation of agricultural and natural environments all play important roles. This can have dire consequences in the future.

Due to the declining interest in botany as a scientific discipline, even highly skilled biologists are often unable to identify common plants. In addition, plant identification skills suffer from a lack of scientific recognition and botanists are at risk of extinction. Insufficient uptake of botany and plant science degrees can lead to a gradual decline in expertise in areas essential to food security, such as Plant pathology.

Example - Conservation of Medicinal Plants in China

Medicinal plants have always played an important role in the history of human health. However, populations and the sustainable use of medicinal plants have been severely impacted by human activities and climate change. Little is known about the current conservation status and distribution patterns of medicinal plants. In a study in China, based on accurate geographic distribution information of 9756 medicinal plants, we identified diversity hotspots and conservation gaps, assessed the conservation effectiveness of conservation areas, and predicted suitable habitats for medicinal plants in China to provide scientific guidance on their long-term conservation and sustainable use. Based on digital data from plant collections in China, a total of 150 diversity hotspot grid cells were identified, mainly concentrated in central and southern China. These made up only 5% of the entire range, but contained 96% of the country's medicinal plants. The hotspot grid cells included all traditional hotspot areas, but we also discovered three new hotspots, namely Mufu-Lushan Mountains, Tianshan Altai Mountains and Changbai Mountains. The current national and provincial wildlife sanctuaries protect 125 hotspot grid cells that host 94% of all medicinal plants. However, 25 hotspot grid cells distributed in the Tianshan Altai Mountains and Hengduan Mountains are outside the national and provincial nature reserves. An analysis of the projected impacts of climate change revealed that the suitable habitat areas will shift from southern to northern China and that southern China will face a significant loss of suitable habitat areas, while the eastern and western parts of China will have significantly better suitable areas than habitats in the embrace the future. In China, current protection networks have achieved high protection effectiveness in relation to medicinal plants. However, the conservation gaps we have identified should not be neglected, and conservation planning must take into account the projected shifts of some medicinal plant hotspots due to climate change.

Gastronomic ethnobotany

Humans depend on plants for food, use them for building materials and to make their daily tools; They also form an important part of their cultural and spiritual practices. 80% of the population in the developing world depends on plants for their primary health care. Indigenous groups use plants in a variety of ways in their daily lives. In many cultures, the traditional knowledge of how to use plants is passed from generation to generation mainly through oral means. Indigenous and local societies are increasingly confronted with changes that threaten the preservation of their traditional knowledge. It is estimated that most of the world's spoken languages will disappear in the next 50 years.

There are about 10,000 species of edible plants, but only about 100 species are among the plants consumed by the vast majority of the world, and fewer than 10 species provide more than 90% of the calories consumed worldwide. The wide variety of plants growing in the world has been little used for potential alternative crops and as a source of genetic resources that could help improve the food crops most commonly used today.

We work around the world to document culinary culture and local food systems, and to preserve and promote global food diversity. As part of our mission, we help bring ingredients from the field and farm to the tables of fine dining restaurants.


The Caucasus - flora, vegetation and ethnobotany

The Caucasus - flora, vegetation and ethnobotany
Few regions in Europe are more steeped in mythology than the Caucasus, and few have sparked more interest from botanists and anthropologists alike. Indeed, given the historical, cultural, economic, religious and ethnic diversity of the region, it would be impossible to define the Caucasus in a single term.

The mountain ranges of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus form one of the most important biodiversity hotspots and also a cradle for human crop use, where human agriculture dates back at least 9000 years, with an amazing human diversity. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote in the 5th century BC. that “many and all kinds of nations dwell in the Caucasus,” and Strabo, early in the first century AD, reported 70 “tribes” in the region, each with its own language. The Roman chronicler Pliny the Elder wrote that the Romans needed 130 interpreters to do business in the Caucasus. The language families Armenian and Kartvelian (to which Georgian belongs) are among the oldest in the world.

This incredible diversity and the importance of the region, e.g. as a transit area for the Silk Road, is also reflected in the use of plants, and while many species have been shared in different parts of the Caucasus, humans have also developed a wide range of different plant resources to use, be it as food, medicine or utensils and tools.
The combination of a variety of ecosystems supporting tremendous botanical diversity, together with ancient plant-use practices and the stunning hospitality of its peoples, makes the Caucasus an ethnobotanist's dream destination. While ethnobotanical research in the region was fairly prominent in the early 20th century, little research in the field has been published from the region since the 1940s. Given the lack of recent publications on human plant use in the wider Caucasus, this volume is a very up-to-date compilation of the main wild plant species used in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Sakartvelo (Republic of Georgia).

Ethnobotany in the Georgian Caucasus

The territory of present-day Georgia has been continuously inhabited since the early Stone Age, and agriculture was developed during the early Neolithic period. In Georgian, the country's name is "Sakartvelo", and "Georgia" is semantically related to Greek (γεωργία), meaning "agriculture". However, human occupation began in the early Pleistocene. The 1.7-million-year-old hominid fossils from Dmanisi in South Georgia are the earliest known hominid finds outside of Africa. This specimen has been classified as Late Middle Paleolithic and Early Upper Neanderthal, and modern human habitation is well documented. Upper Paleolithic fossils from Dzudzuana Cave include remains of wool (Capracaucasica) and dyed fibers of wild flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) dated to ~36–34 Ka BP.

The Caucasus is considered one of the global biodiversity hotspots, and Georgia has its fair share of the region's vast diversity. The botanical exploration of the Caucasus has a long history that has resulted in good recent treatments of the area's vegetation, particularly with regard to Georgia. As such, Georgia has long been the center of botanical exploration in the Caucasus, with the Bakuriani Alpine Botanic Garden serving as a hub. The log of visitors to the garden reads like a "Who's Who" of 20th-century botany.

Archaeological finds from the Neolithic and early Bronze Age are rich in plant fossils and seeds of wild species and local landraces. Seven species of cultivated wheat - Triticum aestivum L., T. carthlicum Nevski, T. compactum Host, T. dicoccum Cabinet, T. macha Dekapr. & Menabde, T. monococcum L., T. spelta L., a wild relative, Aegilops cylindrica Host., as well as millet - Panicum milliaceum L., barley - Hordeum vulgare L., Italian millet - Setaria italica L.) P B. Beauv., oats - Avena sativa L., wild lentil - Lens ervoides (Brignolidi & Brunhoff) Grande and pea - Pisum sativum L. were discovered at Arukhlo, dating to the 6th to 2nd millennium BC. The earliest grapevine seeds indicative of cultivation have been unearthed in South Georgia and date to around 8,000 years BC. Due to its long tradition, agriculture in Georgia is characterized by a large variety of landraces and endemic crop species. These show a high adaptability to local climatic conditions and often a high disease resistance. Early research documented this great diversity, but rapid loss of local grains, legumes and flax began in the 1950s with Stalinist agrarian reform. Despite the long cultural history, recent studies on cultivated plants are rather rare.

Georgia is considered one of the oldest Christian regions, adopting Christianity around 320 AD. A great example of early church building is the 14th-century Gergeti Trinity Church, located at 2170 m at the foot of Mount Kazbeghi (5047 m), overlooking the narrow valley that leads from Georgia to Ingushetia. However, ancestral shrines are still very common in many regions of Georgia.

Wine grapes Vitis vinifera L. (Vitaceae) show genetic diversity in Georgia, with around 500 known varieties, and in most regions the population takes great pride in producing their own wine and sharing it with visitors. There is hardly a house in the Georgian lowlands without at least a few grapes in the garden or backyard. Today, forty-one cultivars of grapevines are used as commercial varieties in Georgia and good wine is readily available, but the history of vine cultivation and winemaking stretches back thousands of years. As in other parts of Europe, Georgian grapes were devastated by phylloxera, and after infestations in the 1860s, most Georgian grape varieties are now grafted onto rootstocks of American grape varieties resistant to phylloxera.

Wheat - Triticum L. (Poaceae): Sixteen species, 144 varieties and 150 forms of wheat were recorded in Georgia in the 1940s (Menabde 1948). However, this diversity has declined sharply and most species had already disappeared by the 1960s, when introduced varieties were favored in Soviet collective farm systems. Currently, none of these species are sown in Georgian commercial agriculture.

Barley – Hordeum vulgare L. (Poaceae) is also an ancient agricultural crop in Georgia and had a special importance in beer production as well as a function in religious rituals and traditional medicine.

Rye - Secale cereale L. (Poaceae) was formerly grown in the high mountain regions of Georgia (1800-2200 m) and found its way into bread and beer production, although barley was preferred for beer.

Threats to diversity
The process of genetic erosion of ancient crop species was originally of little importance for the mountainous areas of Georgia, which served as a repository of ancient crops until the 1990s. Today, the main reason for genetic erosion of ancient crops is demographic decline in mountainous regions due to harsh economic conditions and lack of modern infrastructure. The shift from ancient cultivars to modern high-yield crops such as maize and potatoes, which took place much earlier in the lowlands, began in the mountain villages after the end of the Soviet occupation, when local people displaced to the lowlands returned to their original villages. However, many villages in high-altitude Georgia were abandoned under pressure during Soviet occupation, and while some families have returned for at least the summer, many villages were completely abandoned and lie in ruins by the 1980s. While sheep were bred on a large scale in Soviet times, leading to widespread overgrazing, today only a few scattered flocks remain and traditional woolen items are increasingly difficult to find. Unfortunately, we could not find grain growing anywhere, although ancient landraces of wheat and barley were once favored to make bread and beer for religious rituals.

We started field work in Georgia at the end of the last decade. Since then, expeditions have led to all corners of Sakartvelo.

Bakuriani Alpine Botanical Garden
Recently, the Bakuriani Alpine Botanic Garden has launched an ethnobotanical research program covering the entire Republic of Georgia. BABG, with its central location in Georgia, especially in relation to the main regions of traditional use (Ajaria, Svaneti, Tusheti), will function on the one hand as an ethnobotanical education and resource center and on the other hand will establish an ethnobotanical garden department for in situ conservation of Caucasus traditionally used ones plants and serve as a teaching garden. Field expeditions are organized to collect living plant material and seeds of medicinal plants for ex situ conservation at previously prepared sites in the Alpine Botanical. A red list of endangered medicinal plant species is being drawn up based on literature and field observations. The project work is carried out in close cooperation and participation of local community representatives and interest groups. Close contacts are established with the regional non-governmental organization "Tskhratskaro" in Bakuriani in order to spread knowledge about medicinal plants among school children and young people. Posters with Georgian rare medicinal plants are printed and distributed to the local population.

Area: The garden collections occupy about 6 hectares. The majority of the collections are maintained in the Alpensteingarten. Currently, the garden supports 94 Caucasus endemic species, including 32 Georgian endemics. In addition, the garden collections include 77 rare and 55 endangered plant species. The garden includes a 10-hectare primeval forest of spruce, pine and beech. The forest is vital to the maintenance of this forest ecosystem as it is one of the last remnants of the region's primary forests, 15 ha of traditionally used hay meadows.


Ethnobotany and Ethnozoology in the Himalayas - India, Nepal, Pakistan

The Himalayan region harbors much of the world's biological and cultural diversity. This diversity is not only structured by the steep north-south gradient, but also by an east-west gradient in precipitation. Thousands of plants and animals are used together as medicine, food, fodder, religious purposes, etc. Particularly in mountainous communities, these crops are vital, in some areas they are collected by virtually all households and provide half of the household income

The dialectic relationship between indigenous knowledge and practices shapes the ecosystem and affects plant populations. Indigenous knowledge and uses need to be analyzed explicitly so that appropriate management measures can be developed that build on both scientific and local knowledge to manage both indigenous knowledge and plant populations. However, due to changing perceptions of local people, commercialization, and socio-economic change around the world, it has been widely observed that indigenous knowledge of the use of plant resources has declined. Due to the lack of organized and scientific cultivation, proper management and awareness of social factors, the number of useful plant resources is declining at an alarming rate. In addition, indigenous knowledge of the use of lesser-known plants is also rapidly declining. The present study therefore assesses plant and animal diversity and examines the relationship between plant diversity and indigenous use of plant resources along the altitudinal and longitudinal gradient.

The Himalayan Ethnobotany program is based on the premise that working with local people is the most effective way to sustainably conserve species-rich areas. By integrating ethnobotanical data into conservation plans, we work with communities to develop a program that not only protects and replenishes the ecosystem, but is also consistent with their daily lives and cultural practices.

Capacity building: We have teamed up with local colleagues to train PhD students in the methods of ethnobotany and provide valuable field experience. In addition, we support local universities in developing ethnobotanical research and courses.

Conservation: Our goal is to develop strategies with the local population on how to use their natural resources sustainably so that they can become wise stewards of their environment. We work with these communities to develop conservation plans that are both ecologically beneficial and culturally appropriate. We also firmly believe that preserving traditional knowledge is a key component of both conservation and sustainability.

Quality of Life: Improving the quality of life is a fundamental part of our work in every community. Our program is based on the belief that environmental activities must be closely linked to development activities in order to permanently solve poverty in biodiverse but economically poor countries. We also believe that an educated, healthy community leads to better decision-making.


Markets and Globalization

Detailed studies of local crop markets are of great importance as even local authorities are beginning to encourage wider consumption of locally harvested foods and complementary alternative medicines, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our work examines the composition of the total market flora of metropolitan areas in Georgia, Bolivia, India, Iran, Pakistan, Peru and Colombia and possible changes over the past decades to promote sustainable and safe use of plants.


Book project - Ethnobotany of Mountain Regions

The Ethnobotany of Mountain Regions book series (online and print) is organized into volumes, each covering a major mountainous region including the Northern Andes (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), Southern Andes (Patagonia), Central America, North America (Mexico) , North America (Rocky Mountains), Far Eastern Europe (North Caucasus, Urals, Turkey), Central Asia (Tien Shan, Altai), Himalayas, Africa, Southeast Asia, mountain regions of Brazil, Eastern Europe (Carpathians), North Africa and the Levant. The content focuses on the use of human plants in the various mountain systems.

Content is organized by Global Mountain macro-regions. Each mountainous region is divided into sections covering countries (or groups of countries) based on plant diversity and not necessarily political or national boundaries. Each volume covering a mountain macro-region is between 750 and 2000 pages.

Each mountain region is divided into sections covering countries or groups of countries. Therefore, the Mountain Region section would contain: An introduction to the region, introductions to major units of the region, and 200-500 plant monographs.


Ethnobotany Research and Applications

Ethnobotany Research and Applications is an electronic, peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual journal devoted to the rapid dissemination of current research in any areas related to Ethnobiology. The journal is currently published by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia in cooperation with Saving Knowledge / Ethnomont. The journal seeks manuscripts that are novel, integrative and written in ways that are accessible to a wide audience. This includes an array of disciplines (Biological and Social Sciences) concerned particularly with theoretical questions in the field of Ethnobiology that leads to practical applications. Articles can also be based on the perspectives of cultural practitioners and others with insights into plants, people and applied research. Database papers, Ethnobiological inventories, Ethnobotanical Notes, Methodology reviews, Education studies and Theoretical discussions are also published.

Papers that are primarily agronomic or horticultural, and those concerned mainly with analytical data on the chemical constituents of plants, or bioassays are out of scope for ERA and should be submitted elsewhere.

ERA is indexed in Scopus and Crossref.


Medicinal plants in northern Peru and southern Ecuador

The border region of Ecuador and Peru is one of the most species-rich areas on earth and therefore a "biodiversity hotspot" par excellence. Low passes in the Andes chain allow easy exchange between the flora and fauna of the Amazon basin and the Pacific lowlands. In addition, the region exhibits a very rapid transition between the humid montane forests of the northern Andes and the dry deciduous forests of the northern Peruvian lowlands.

Traditional healing methods have proven effective in many countries with or without access to conventional allopathic medicine. In the United States, these traditional practices are increasingly in demand for diseases that cannot be easily treated by mainstream medicine. More and more people are interested in the knowledge of traditional healers and the variety of medicinal plants that thrive in areas like northern Peru. While scientific studies of medicinal plants are ongoing, concerns have arisen about the preservation of both the wide variety of medicinal plants and the associated traditional knowledge of healing methods. To encourage further conservation work, this study attempted to document the sources of the most popular and rarest medicinal plants sold in the Trujillo and Chiclayo markets, as well as to provide an inventory of the plants sold in these markets, which will serve as a basis for comparison with future stocks. Individual markets and market stalls were subjected to a cluster analysis based on the variety of medicinal plants on offer.

Detailed questionnaires were developed for the survey of traditional plant uses, containing questions on plant origin, common name, disease category, recipe formulation, pricing and quantities sold. The authors chose to retain the traditional disease categories provided by the informants rather than attempting to return to the Western biomedical system. Surveys are conducted in Spanish by fluent speakers. Reviewers would contact healers and market vendors and explain the premise for the study, including the goal of preserving medicinal plants in the region. Healers and market vendors (both male and female) will be interviewed in Peru after explaining the scope of the study and obtaining their prior consent.

Once medicinal plants have been identified and collected, phytochemical bioassays are performed to determine if the plants exhibit antibacterial activity. The floristic composition as well as the complex phytochemistry of traditional herbal mixtures remain woefully understudied. This is all the more surprising given that traditional efforts to research medicinal products based on a single plant have yielded very little in recent decades and may actually explain why so many plant species documented for a particular use are “inefficient” or “toxic” when introduced into clinical trials. Traditional herbal blends, with their wealth of compound fragments and new compounds created in the manufacturing  process, may well provide new leads for the treatment of a variety of diseases. Further studies comparing the compositional composition of these preparations with single plant extracts as well as investigations comparing the efficacy and toxicity of herbal preparations with their single plant ingredients are underway.


Ethnobotany of the Chácobo - Traditional Knowledge, Intellectual Property and Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing

The Chácobo Ethnobotany Project is the world's first effort to train local colleagues in ethnobotanical survey and plant collection techniques so that they can document their own plant-use traditions without outside influence.

Bolivia has a rich diversity of indigenous cultures with at least thirty tribes among eleven language groups. However, there are few detailed studies of indigenous peoples' use of plants and resources, and authorities still ignore their knowledge of forest management. The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) had a strong influence in changing the culture of many tribes in Bolivia, including the Chácobo. The SIL worked with Chácobo communities from 1953 to 1980, resulting in a profound change in lifestyle and a permanent process of acculturation. Brian Boom (Boom 1987) led the first ethnobotanical study of Chácobo from 1983-1984 and documented her knowledge after almost 30 years in this cultural shift. Since then, essentially nothing has been published about Chacobo ethnobotanical knowledge.

The Chácobo belong to the Panoic language group, which includes about twelve tribes (Chácobo, Pacahuara, Matis, Matses, Yaminahua and others). In the late 1890s, the Chácobo lived as semi-nomadic hunters and cassava and maize farmers, probably in two groups, one of six and one of four families, in north-west Bolivia, roughly between Lake Roguagnado and the Mamore River, south of Bolivia their present one territory. During the rubber boom of the early 1900s, more aggressive tribes forced them to move north, where they were threatened by rubber tappers, which also brought disease and epidemics to the tribe. However, the Chácobo managed to avoid most outside influences while other tribes in the region were hunted like animals to enslave in rubber stations. The Chácobo did not have their first permanent contact with the outside world until 1953 with people from the Tribes Missions, and in 1954 the Bolivian government established an agency about 15 km from the current location of Puerto Limones. Missionary linguist Gilbert Prost came under the auspices of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) in 1955. According to Prost, four Chácobo groups of about 200 people lived between the Benicito and Yata rivers (Boom 1987). Prost and his wife lived with the Chácobo until 1980. In addition to translating the New Testament into Chácobo, they made some observations on cultural and linguistic practices. In 1964, Prost managed to buy an area in the north of the Chácobo ancestral lands and form the community of Alto Ivon, and most of the remaining population moved there. In 1965, the Bolivian government finally allotted 43,000 hectares of land to the Chácobo, although this area represented less than 10% of their original territory. The influence of Prost caused a profound cultural change among the Chácobo, including the abandonment of traditional costumes and dances in 1969. Currently, the population of the Chácobo community numbers about 500 people, with Alto Ivon as the largest settlement and Tokyo, Motacuzal, Siete Almendros, and other smaller communities along the Yata River. The tribe's current territory covers 450,000 hectares, roughly the original extent of the tribe's ancestral lands. The municipality of Alto Ivon, the center of the Chácobo territory, is located about 112 km south of Riberalta on the River Ivon, a tributary of the Beni. The altitude is about 200 m and can be classified as an Amazon rainforest. Rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) and Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) are plentiful. The average annual temperature is 26.8 °C, with an average annual rainfall of 1.56 mm, based on observations in Riberalta. A pronounced dry season lasts from June to November. The Chácobo used to be led by a cacique. Today there are two indigenous organizations: the Capitanía Mayor Chácobo, closely linked to the Evangelists, and the Chácobo-Pacahuara Association, recognized by the Central Indígena de la Región Amazónica de Bolivia (CIRABO), supported by the Central de Pueblos Indigenas del Beni (CPIB) and the Confederacion de Pueblos Indigenas de Bolivia (CIDOB).

The project investigates the current traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) on plant use of the Chacobo and Pacahuara in Beni, Bolivia and has three goals: 1) to discover and document current traditional plant knowledge through interviews and surveys, 2) to inventory the current flora of the region , and 3) to repatriate the acquired knowledge and previous data to the community.

Urban vegetation

Cities are different from their surroundings – an obvious fact which has, nevertheless, countless facets when taking a closer look. Facets from various subjects such as urban development and infrastructure, resource usage and extraction, climate and weather, and many more. Regarding botanical research, cities are interesting special areas comprising very specific habitat types and niches, ranging from artificial but near-natural parks to graveled road edges, green roofs, and joints in pavements (see Priemetzhofer & Berger 2001). Furthermore, newly introduced neophytic species commonly appear first in cities due to, e.g., the intensive traffic connection. And so there is a »cocktail« of indigenous species and others which were (and are) intentionally planted or unintentionally introduced. Comparisons among cities or between cities and their surroundings thus provide new aspects regarding habitat ecology, chorology, population biology, and further research fields.

Priemetzhofer, F. & Berger, F. (2001): Flechten in Pflasterritzen – ein bemerkenswerter, mit Füßen getretener Sonderstandort. – Beitr. Naturk. Oberösterreichs 10: 355-369   [»Lichens in pavement joints – an interesting, but trampled special habitat«]