Indigenous peoples are often considered potential allies in the conservation of biological diversity. Here we assess whether ethnobotanical skills of indigenous people contribute to a reduction in the clearance of tropical rain forest. We measured ethnobotanical skills of male household heads and area of rain forest cleared for agriculture among 128 households of Tsimane', a native Amazonian group in Bolivia. We used multivariate regressions to estimate the relation between ethnobotanical skills and area of rain forest cleared while controlling for schooling, health status, number of plots cleared, adults in household, and village of residency. We found that when the ethnobotanical skills of the male household head were doubled, the amount of tropical rain forest cleared per household was reduced by 25%. The association was stronger when the area of old-growth forest cleared was used as the dependent variable than when the area cleared from fallow forest was used as the dependent variable. People who use the forest for subsistence might place a higher value on standing forest than people who do not use it, and thus they may be more reluctant to cut down the forest. © Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2007.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2007|