Plant Knowledge and Current Uses of Woody Flora in Three Cultural Groups of the Brazilian Semiarid Region: Does Culture Matter?

Dayanne Támela Nogueira Soares, Julia Caram Sfair, Victoria Reyes-García, Cristina Baldauf

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6 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017, The New York Botanical Garden. Patterns of plant use in human populations are context-specific and influenced by many different ecological and social factors like plant diversity and availability, and gender, age, and household structure. The aim of this study is to evaluate current levels of knowledge and use of native plant species in different sociocultural groups living in the same ecological area. We examine the association between an individual’s species knowledge and use and (1) species availability and (2) individual age, gender, and group pertinence. Data were collected through interviews with three different groups living in the municipality of Açu, Rio Grande do Norte (n = 233): an urban community, a local community of fishers, and a traditional community of self-identified indigenous people (Caboclos de Açu). The results show no correlation between knowledge/use and resource availability. Elders know and use more species than younger interviewees. Men know more species than women, but there is no difference between the number of species used by men and women. Group pertinence was related to both current levels of species knowledge and use: the urban community had less knowledge of the flora than the local and traditional communities. Regarding species uses, the traditional community uses more plants than the local community, and informants in the urban community use the least. Our results dovetail recent anthropological research suggesting that, despite other important cultural changes, the Caboclos de Açu continue to maintain at least part of their traditional knowledge system, probably because they depend on the use of plant resources for their livelihood. Overall, our results highlight the predominance of culture above the environment in driving plant use and knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-329
JournalEconomic Botany
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Dry tropical forests
  • ethnobotany
  • traditional ecological knowledge
  • traditional populations

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