Tag Archives: conservation

Bhutan Finds Alternative Source of Medicinal Plants to Ease Pressure from Commercial Harvesting


Medicinal plants of Dagala region in Bhutan: their diversity, distribution, uses and economic potential

Wangchuk P, Namgay K, Gayleg K, Dorji Y
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jun 24;12(1):28
PubMed Central: PMC4921017

Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and Ministry of Health conducted an ethnobotanical survey to determine if the Dagala village block (gewog) might serve as an alternative collection site for the state-run Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures plant-based medicines for traditional g.so-ba-rig-pa hospitals in Bhutan.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Phurpa Wangchuk of James Cook University and co-authors note that the ecological pressure on medicinal plants in Bhutan has increased significantly over recent years, particularly in Lingzhi Gewog, the primary source of plants and other raw materials for medical formulations manufactured for the country’s network of traditional medicine providers:

“[Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals (MSP)] manufactures more than 100 different polyingredient medicinal formulations and supplies them to the traditional medicine hospitals and units across the country. The polyingredient medicinal formulations are prepared into different dosage forms as powder, capsules, pills, tablets, ointments and decoctions. The raw materials (mostly medicinal plants) for preparing these formulations are either collected within Bhutan (mostly from Lingzhi region) or imported from India. The medicinal plants, which grow in the higher elevation of alpine mountains (>2000 meters above sea level) including that from Lingzhi region, are known as the High Altitude Medicinal Plants (HAMP) and the others that grow in the temperate and tropical environment are called the Low Altitude Medicinal Plants (LAMP). Due to persistent collections of HAMP from Lingzhi region for more than 48 years, the pressure on medicinal plants has increased significantly over the recent years. Therefore, identifying an alternative medicinal plants collection site for HAMP have been one of the MSP’s top priority.”

Bhutanese g.so-ba-rig-pa medicine is with traditional Tibetan medicine one of the oldest surviving medical traditions and is in wide practice across the world, so this case study is potentially of significance not only for Bhutan but also for the other countries that use these medicinal plants.

The team chose Dagala Gewog to study because it shares several agro-climatic features with Lingzhi Gewog and has never had an ethnobotanical survey (though there were abundant anecdotal claims about medicinal lush plant growth in the region), and because the local people could potentially benefit from a sustainable collection program.

Berberis aristata
Berberis aristata [Photo: Buddhika.jm, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with a local Byjop guide, the team identified 100 medicinal plant species from Dagala Gewog, 16 of which were abundant in the region and in current use by MSP: Aconitum laciniatum, Berberis aristata, Bistorta macrophylla, Euphorbia wallichii, Gentiana algida, Geranium refractum, Juniperus pseudosabina, Juniperus squamata, Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora, Plantago depressa, Potentilla arbuscula, Rheum australe, Rhododendron anthopogon, Rhododendron glaucophyllum, Rhododendron setosum, and Taraxacum officinale.

“These 16 species that are found in abundance have the economic potential since MSP require them in bulk quantities to prepare g.so-ba-rig-pa medicines. Since g.so-ba-rig-pa is also practiced across the globe, these medicinal plants could be in demand by other countries including India, Nepal, Mongolia, Tibet and Switzerland (PADMA company based on Tibetan medicine). However, the first priority would be to focus on meeting the domestic demand of MSP for these medicinal plants. MSP currently engage yak herders for collecting medicinal plants from Lingzhi. As a result of medicinal plants collection program, the Lingzhip (local inhabitants of Lingzhi region) have improved their socio-economic status and contributed significantly to the realization of country’s ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) indices including preservation of traditional medical knowledge, conservation of environment and socio-economic prosperity.”

The team concluded that it was feasible to establish an alternative medicinal-plant collection center in Dagala Gewog:

“Establishing an alternative HAMP collection centre in Dagala Gewog has multi-pronged benefits. The tangible and immediate benefits would include: a) Dagala communities could generate decent income through medicinal plants collection program and elevate their socio-economic status, b) MSP could obtain sustainable supply of HAMP to meet the demand of g.so-ba-rig-pa medicine production, c) training on sustainable collection of HAMP (always provided by MSP as a package of collection program) would educate Dagala Jops on the values, protection and preservation of plants, d) establishing this alternative collection center would ease the pressure on Lingzhi HAMP and could enable MSP to collect the plants on a rotational basis, and e) since Dagala region is known for eco-tourism, having the medicinal plants collection centre and the herb garden would enhance the in-flow of eco-tourists especially the botanists and the herbalists.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.


Large Survey of Market Vendors Yields New Data on Medicinal-Plant Trade in Ecuador


Medicinal plants sold at traditional markets in southern Ecuador

Tinitana F, Rios M, Romero-Benavides JC, de la Cruz Rot M, Pardo-de-Santayana M
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jul 5;12(1):29
PubMed Central: PMC4934001

Loja Province in Ecuador
Loja Province in Ecuador [Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, the University of Florida, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid conducted an ethnobotanical study to catalog medicinal plants sold at traditional markets in southern Ecuador’s Loja Province. The team interviewed 196 vendors at 33 traditional markets in the largest sample of Ecuadorian medicinal-plant market vendors to date.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Fani Tinitana and co-authors note the value and limitations of market surveys for ethnobotanical research:

“Current ethnobotanical research at traditional markets across continents, considering Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, contributes to the understanding of plant diversity through the trade of medicinal plant species and their cultural value. In this way, market surveys can help to understand regional networks of producers, sellers, healers, and consumers by the supply and demand of medicinal plants and their derivative products. The total number of inventoried medicinal plant species at a particular traditional market is important, but they do not necessarily represent all species used in the traditional medicine of a specific human group.”

Matricaria recutita
Matricaria recutita [Photo: Alvesgaspar, Wikimedia Commons]
The study registered 160 medicinal plant species sold to treat a variety of ailments. Two species were particularly important: Matricaria recutita and Gaiadendrum punctatum, used to treat digestive and respiratory systems ailments. Other important species included Ruta graveolens, Melissa officinalis, Equisetum bogotense, Amaranthus hybridus, and Viola tricolor.

In their conclusion, the authors recommend further research on potential therapeutic applications of these medicinal plant species and urge sustainable management of trade as demand is likely to increase:

“For future efforts, it should be important to focus on correlating the values of FL [fidelity level] and FIC [factor of informant consensus] with the incidence of local ailments, as this will be useful to establish public health policies related with the trade of medicinal plant species. This initiative will be effective to support traditional medicine and its therapeutic repertoire. The first step will be to choose the medicinal plant species with widespread and consistent medicinal use in southern Ecuador and to study their therapeutical applications with physicians and scientists, primarily to identify bioactive compounds.

The evidence presented in this study reaffirms the relationship between ancestral wisdom and traditional medicine, particularly in local markets within the Loja province. In fact, it is important to stress how medicinal plant resources are crucial for local people in 13 cities within the Loja province; also, it is important to understand why a high percentage of them practice auto-medication. Reasons for the maintenance of traditional markets include lower cost of plant products, confidence in traditional medicine, and/or sociocultural environment.

This research is the first contribution to understanding from the ethnobotanical point of view the human-plant dynamics of traditional markets within the Loja province, where medicinal plants have a substantial role in the lives of local people. The trade demand of medicinal plants and their derivatives over the next few years could increase, leading to the over-harvesting of wild plant species and could perhaps even endanger natural populations, (e.g., Oreocallis grandiflora). Sustainable management of wild medicinal plants is important for their diversity conservation and in order to avoid their extinction, particularly in the case of highly used species in traditional medicine.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.




In Kenya, Two More Plant Species Reported As Potential Antimalarials


Medicinal plants used for management of malaria among the Luhya community of Kakamega East sub-County, Kenya

Mukungu N, Abuga K, Okalebo F, Ingwela R, Mwangi J
J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 24;194:98-107
PubMed Central: PMC5176009

Kakamega County in Kenya
Kakamega County in Kenya [Source: NordNordWest, Wikimedia Commons]
Researchers from the University of Nairobi conducted an ethnobotanical survey to document plants used in the management of malaria among Luhya people living in Kakamega County, Kenya. Two of the species, Rumex steudelii and Phyllanthus sepialis, have not previously been reported as malaria remedies.

In a paper published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the authors describe the need for investigation of antimalarial botanical medicines used by the people of this region:

“In Kenya, 80% of the population is at risk of contracting [malaria]. Pregnant mothers and children under five years are the most affected by this disease. Antimalarial drug resistance poses a major threat in the fight against malaria necessitating continuous search for new antimalarial drugs. Due to inadequate and inaccessible health facilities, majority of people living in rural communities heavily depend on traditional medicine which involves the use of medicinal plants for the management of malaria. Most of these indigenous knowledge is undocumented and risks being lost yet such information could be useful in the search of new antimalarial agents.”

Rotheca myricoides
Rotheca myricoides [Photo: Kurt Stüber, Wikimedia Commons]
Working with traditional medicine practitioners and other caregivers, the team documented 42 plant species used in the management of malaria, including Melia azedarach, Aloe spp, Ajuga integrifolia, Vernonia amygdalina, Rotheca myricoides, Fuerstia africana, Zanthoxylum gilletii, Leucas calostachys, Clerodendrum johnstonii, and Physalis peruviana.

Two of the species identified by the team have not previously been reported as treatments for malaria: Rumex steudelii and Phyllanthus sepialis. With two exceptions (Clerodendrum johnstonii and Physalis peruviana), the rest have been tested in the laboratory for antiplasmodial activities. Antiplasmodial compounds have been isolated from fewer than half of the plants so far.

The authors conclude with a call for conservation, both of traditional ethnomedicinal knowledge and of the medicinal plants themselves. They note that botanical medicines used for malaria are mainly obtained from the wild and that those which are cultivated are done so because they are not easily available in the wild (e.g., introduced plants) or face extinction (e.g., Ajuga integrifolia).

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.




Wild Edible Plants of Burji District, Ethiopia


Ethnobotanical study of wild edible plants in Burji District, Segan Area Zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), Ethiopia

Ashagre M, Asfaw Z, Kelbessa E
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Aug 2;12(1):32
PubMed Central: PMC4971624

Investigators at Bule Hora University and Addis Ababa University conducted an ethnobotanical study of wild edible plants in the Burji woreda of southeastern Ethiopia.

Ficus sur
Ficus sur (Photo: JMK, Wikimedia Commons)

Using guided field walks, semi-structured interviews, and direct field observations, the team documented 46 wild plant species used as food. Two species (Arisaema schimperianum and Amorphophallus gomboczianus) were used to supplement the regular food supply and the remainder were used during food shortages, including seven species consumed during famine (Dovyalis abyssinica, Ehretia cymosa, Euclea divinorum, Ficus sur, Lannea schimperi, Olea europaea, and Rumex abyssinicus).

Noting that wild edible plants are under threat in the district due to anthropogenic pressures and disturbed climatic conditions, the authors make a number of recommendations for collaborative action:

“Ethnobotanical studies are important to promote the conservation and management of the vegetation of a certain area. The loss of indigenous knowledge on wild edible plants may occur if the resources disappear from the landscape. Being a basic source of information about the types of wild edible plants found in the study area and their use, this study would help in maintaining the ecological balance of the area and serve as a wakeup call for other researchers, including ethnobotanists and ecologists, to proceed to more of such studies. It enriches the herbarium and serves as permanent herbarium records and specimens for determination and quick botanical reference in future. In addition to these:

  • Some plants, for example, Ariseama schimperianum could be a very good food source at any time; hence should be given due attention either in maintaining it or improving it through domestication for more intensive usage.
  • Proper consideration should be given in the conservation and keeping of both wild edible plants and associated indigenous knowledge.
  • Expansion of farm lands through clearing forests and woodlands should be stopped by inducing intensive agricultural activities than extensive one through fulfilling different inputs.
  • The local people need awareness raising interventions about the sustainable use of natural resources.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.



A Comparative Ethnobotanical Study of the Cholistan Desert & Pothwar Plateau of Pakistan


A comparative ethno-botanical study of Cholistan (an arid area) and Pothwar (a semi-arid area) of Pakistan for traditional medicines

Malik S, Ahmad S, Sadiq A, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2015 Apr 30;11:31
PubMed Central: PMC4460735

Cholistan Desert & Indus River Basin
Cholistan Desert & Indus River Basin [Photo: NASA, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators at the National University of Sciences and Technology, University of Sargodha, Islamia University of Bahawalpur, and American University of Ras Al Khaimah conducted an ethnobotanical study to compare and document therapeutic flora, their use, and traditional knowledge of residents of the Cholistan Desert and Pothwar (Potohar) Plateau of  Pakistan.

In their introduction, the authors note both the paucity of published ethnobotanical research and the risk of loss of indigenous knowledge from these regions:

“Data regarding ethnobotanical or ethnopharmacologically characteristics of the plants of Cholistan desert and Pothwar is almost non-existent except very few reports. The main objective of present study is to explore the relationship between local culture of folk people and plants in the pursuit of drug development and medical breakthroughs. The herbal treatments in respective regions are favored over the allopathic ones for their low cost and less side effects. The most important objective of this study is the preservation of local plant knowledge. Loss of the indigenous knowledge is a threat to the poor rural economies based on traditional livestock farming as that in the deserts like Cholistan or semi-arid area like Pothwar. It was, therefore, deemed imperative to document the ethnobotany knowledge possessed by the people of respective areas. In addition to this, present study will be a yardstick to probe standardization and systematic exploration of traditional herbs.”

Acacia nilotica
Acacia nilotica [Photo: J.M.Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented 67 plant species used in the traditional treatment of human diseases in the Cholistan Desert, and 86 species used in the treatment human diseases in the Pothwar Plateau. Medicinal plants used in both regions (10.5% of the total) included Acacia nilotica, Boerhavia procumbens, Calotropis procera, Citrullus colocynthis, Cyperus rotundus, Peganum harmala, Solanum surattense, Withania somnifera, and Ziziphus nummularia.

The findings from the Cholistan Desert are of particular interest (for example, roughly half of all plant species endemic to the region are used for medicinal purposes):

“Cholistan Desert is uniquely located in wild land with dearth of endemic flora counting only 128 species belonging to 32 families. During the present study people including local elders (Siana), herbal and homoeopathic practitioners and spiritual healers were interviewed. They play an imperative role in primary healthcare of the local inhabitants as the majority of their clients come from poor families who cannot meet the expense of the modern healthcare services. As said by traditional healers, the local people are still dependent on wild plants for prime healthcare owing to the widespread faith in its efficiency. According to the current survey, local people for curing various diseases, commonly use 67 plant species belonging to 29 families. The diseases cured vary from simple stomachache to more complicated such as male and female urino-genital disorders…. 14 plant species are being used for the treatment of gastrointestinal tract disorders. Moreover, it is observed that 16 plant species are consumed as antibacterial and cure for skin diseases. 10 of the plant species are particularly utilized for respiratory tract problems, whereas, for musculoskeletal and joint disorders 10 plant species are used. There are 5 species being consumed for the male sexual disorders, and 10 species for the female sexual disorders. For urinary tract infections 5 plant species have been exploited, and 10 plant species are being consumed as anti-diabetics. In addition to this, traditional healers are using 14 plant species to cure fever, 7 plant species to cure liver diseases, 9 plant species to treat jaundice and renal stones are being cured with 6 plant species. Five plants including Heliotropium strigosum, Withania somnifera, Mukia maderaspatana, Cymbopogon jwarancusa, and Peganum harmala are commonly used for the treatment of CNS disorders, like dementia.”

The authors recommend further documentation and preservation of this rich and unique traditional knowledge, which is in imminent danger of loss, as well as conservation of the medicinal plant species themselves and research on their pharmacological activity.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Traditional Knowledge of Wild Edibles Used by the Naxi in Baidi Village, Yunnan Province


Traditional knowledge and its transmission of wild edibles used by the Naxi in Baidi Village, northwest Yunnan province

Geng Y, Zhang Y, Ranjitkar S, Huai H, Wang Y
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Feb 5;12(1):10
PubMed PMID: 26846564
Yunnan Province
Yunnan Province (Source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons)

Investigators from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, World Agroforestry Centre, and Yangzhou University conducted a detailed investigation of wild edibles used by the Naxi (Nakhi, 纳西族) people in Baidi village of Yunnan Province and evaluate them to identify innovative organic food products.

The team recorded 173 wild edible plant species, including Cardamine macrophylla, Cardamine tangutorum and Eutrema yunnanense, traditionally consumed as important supplements to the diet, particularly during food shortages.

From the background:

“The Naxi people, one of the main ethnic groups in northwest Yunnan, have accumulated rich knowledge on using wild edibles. Baidi Village (Sanba Naxi Nationality Township, Shangri-La City, Deqing Prefecture) is located in … the Northwest of Yunnan Province, roughly between the two cities Lijiang and Diqing…. The mountain in its territory belongs to Haba Snow Mountain, Yunling Mountain range. Baidi … reaches an elevation of approximately 4500 m while networks of streams and rivers including Geji and Yangtze dissect numerous valleys, which make it encompass a rich diversity of plants. The village has 15 sections or groups of the settlement, eight of which belong to the Naxi. In the northwest of the village, there is a big limestone terrace, Baishuitai (literal meaning white water terrace). Local people believe this place as a shrine and perform various religious activities. It also is a famous scenic spot that attracts the considerable number of tourists all over the world.”

Hypericum forrestii
Hypericum forrestii (Source: Prashanthns, Wikimedia Commons)

The article details the diversity of wild edibles used by the Naxi (including wild vegetables, wild fruits, teas, and one honey source, Hypericum forrestii) and the traditional wisdom of the Naxi regarding the use of these plants. In their conclusion, the authors propose sustainable investigation of nutritional value and market opportunities, while promoting conservation of traditional knowledge:

“The traditional food knowledge of the Naxi in Baidi is dynamic, affected by social factors and communicated with the outsiders’ food knowledge. Overall, this study provides a deeper understanding of the Naxi traditional knowledge on wild edibles. The study suggests some wild edibles might have an interesting dietary constituent, which necessitates further investigation on the nutrition value as well as market opportunities. With scientific evidence on nutrition value and market opportunity, more people will be attracted toward the wild edibles that will help in addressing food security issues along with conservation of traditional knowledge of the aboriginal population.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnomedicinal Knowledge of the Indigenous People of Malda District, West Bengal


Indigenous knowledge of plants in local healthcare management practices by tribal people of Malda district, India

Saha MR, Sarker DD, Kar P, Gupta PS, Sen A
J Intercult Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Oct-Dec;3(4):179-85
PubMed Central PMC4576813

Malda District, West Bengal, India
Malda District, West Bengal, India [Source: GDibyendu, Wikimedia Commons]
Investigators from the University of North Bengal conducted an ethnobotanical study aimed at exploring the indigenous knowledge of native tribes on the utilization of wild plant species for local healthcare management in Malda district of West Bengal.

From the Introduction:

“The region is covered with plentiful natural vegetation, which makes it verdant. River beds, ponds, marshy land etc. are good habitats for the wetland undergrowth. Most of the remote villages are covered by jungles, which consist chiefly of thorny scrub bush and large trees showing wide distribution of flora. The soil of the western region of the district is particularly suited to the growth of mulberry and mango, for which Malda has become famous. Various ethnic communities, including Santala, Rajbanshi, Namasudre, Polia, Oraon, Mundas, Malpaharias etc. are the inhabitants of this region. Of these Santala, Oraon is different from others due to their unique culture and tradition. They are quite popular to treat several types of local ailments of human and veterinary purposes.”

Consulting with traditional healers and practitioners, the team documented 53 medicinal plants frequently used to treat 44 types of ailments.

Andrographis paniculata
Andrographis paniculata [Source: J.M. Garg, Wikimedia Commons]
Predominant among the most important medicinal plants used in the treatment of several diseases are Andrographis paniculata, Amaranthus spinosus, Alstonia scholaris, Cuscuta reflexa, Jatropha gossypiifolia, Caesalpinia crista, Tamarindus indica and Sida rhombifolia.

Azoospermia was the most commonly treated disease, followed by different types of pains, ankle sprain, diabetes, dysentery, inflammation, menstrual disorder, rheumatism, skin disorders and leucorrhea.

This first study of ethnomedicinal knowledge of the ethnic people of Malda district could be a crucial first step toward the conservation of cultural traditions and biodiversity in the region:

“Now-a-days the traditional knowledge is in the way of erosion due to environmental degradation, deforestation, agricultural expansion and population pressure. Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants and their use by indigenous cultures are not only useful for conservation of cultural traditions and biodiversity but also for community healthcare and drug development at present and in the future. Therefore, recording of indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants is an urgent task.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnomedicines of region surrounding Ayubia National Park, Himalayan Pakistan


Ethnomedicines of highly utilized plants in the temperate Himalayan region

Begum S, AbdEIslam NM, Adnan M, Tariq A, Yasmin A, Hameed R
Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2014 Apr 3;11(3):132-42
PubMed Central PMC4202431

Researchers from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Arriyadh Community College of King Saud University and Kohat University of Science and Technology conducted a study of indigenous knowledge of highly utilized medicinal plants in in Nathiagali and adjoining villages surrounding Ayubia National Park, a temperate Himalayan forest region of northwestern Pakistan.

Bergenia ciliata
Bergenia ciliata [Source: Magnus Manske, Wikimedia Commons]
The team documented 43 medicinal plants used as antipyretics, for gastrointestinal disorders and for other ethnomedicinal purposes. Among the most valuable species from the perspective of the local population are Bergenia ciliata, Hedera nepalensis and Viola canescens.

In their conclusion, the authors note that the older people of the region, particularly the women, have much ethnomedicinal knowledge that has been transferred from their parents, but that the younger generation is totally ignorant about this traditional knowledge and that the plants themselves are under severe threat from overexploitation, improper collection, grazing and deforestation. They recommend training to help the medicinal plant collectors avoid losses and reforestation in the region as a way forward for the recovery of medicinal plants as well as cultivation trials under an agroforestry system.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Traditional Livelihoods, Conservation & Meadow Ecology in Jiuzhaigou National Park


Traditional Livelihoods, Conservation and Meadow Ecology in Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan, China

Urgenson L, Schmidt AH, Combs J, Harrell S, Hinckley T, Yang Q, Ma Z, Yongxian L, Hongliang L, MacIver A
Hum Ecol. 2014 Jun;42(3):481-491
PubMed Central PMC4474163

Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park, Sichuan, China, Wǔhuā Hǎi rize valley 日则沟
Wǔhuā Hǎi Rize Valley 日则沟, Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan, China [Source: Wikimedia Commons, chensiyuan]
Investigators from the University of Washington, Oberlin College, Jiuzhaigou National Park, Aarhus University, Sichuan University and University of Chicago employed archaeological excavation, ethnographic interviews, remote sensing and vegetation surveys to examine the implications of two national reforestation programs to increase forest cover and exclude local land use in this UNESCO World Heritage Site and Man and Biosphere Reserve.

From the Introduction:

“Despite international recognition that biodiversity conservation should respect and account for indigenous cultures, the role of human land-uses in preserving ecosystems is a subject of debate, with practical implications for management of protected areas. On one side, land-use is viewed as outside the natural range of variability and thus detrimental to biodiversity conservation. On the other side, landscapes are portrayed as products of human-environment interactions and human disturbance as potentially beneficial to biodiversity. In reality, the extent to which land-use either aids or inhibits conservation depends on the nature and extent of human activities and their historic role in shaping the distributions of species and habitats. Understanding these linkages allows us to evaluate conservation practices critically and to formulate management policies that support biological diversity and local cultures.”

On the basis of archaeological excavations, ethnographic interviews, remote sensing and vegetation surveys, the team found that the landscape of Jiuzhaigou National Park is the product of more than 2,000 years of human-ecosystem interactions that may have enriched biodiversity and ecosystem services through the creation of meadow patches in a landscape dominated by forests. In their conclusion, the authors propose that governments and NGOs rethink conservation that demands removal of human land-use in order to return the land to a “natural” state:

“The results of this interdisciplinary study suggest that long-term human land-use, including traditional-scale agriculture and pastoralism, created and maintained montane meadows in [Jiuzhaigou National Park]. The cessation of human land-use and intentional planting of trees have resulted in substantial loss of meadows with potentially profound implications for the Park’s conservation aims. Continued loss of these meadow habitats may result in changes in ecological systems, with lower diversity, fewer ecosystem services, and loss of cultural meaning and traditional knowledge over time.

Our findings from Jiuzhaigou have more general application for conservation practice. The inhabitants of Jiuzhaigou, as in many other areas, have lived as part of the cultural landscape over millennia, and in doing so have significantly shaped the patterns of biodiversity that we see on the landscape. This leads us to rethink conservation that demands removal of human land-use in order to return it to a “natural” state. Our findings are relevant to conservation in protected areas where there is an interest in maintaining existing ecological and cultural structures.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.