Shifts in indigenous culture relate to forest tree diversity: A case study from the Tsimane', Bolivian Amazon

Maximilien Guèze, Ana Catarina Luz, Jaime Paneque-Gálvez, Manuel J. Macía, Martí Orta-Martínez, Joan Pino, Victoria Reyes-García

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

14 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Understanding how indigenous peoples' management practices relate to biological diversity requires addressing contemporary changes in indigenous peoples' way of life. This study explores the association between cultural change among a Bolivian Amazonian indigenous group, the Tsimane', and tree diversity in forests surrounding their villages. We interviewed 86 informants in six villages about their level of attachment to traditional Tsimane' values, our proxy for cultural change. We estimated tree diversity (Fisher's Alpha index) by inventorying trees in 48 0.1-ha plots in old-growth forests distributed in the territory of the same villages. We used multivariate models to assess the relation between cultural change and alpha tree diversity. Cultural change was associated with alpha tree diversity and the relation showed an inverted U-shape, thus suggesting that tree alpha diversity peaked in villages undergoing intermediate cultural change. Although the results do not allow for testing the direction of the relation, we propose that cultural change relates to tree diversity through the changes in practices and behaviors that affect the traditional ecological knowledge of Tsimane' communities; further research is needed to determine the causality. Our results also find support in the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, and suggest that indigenous management can be seen as an intermediate form of anthropogenic disturbance affecting forest communities in a subtle, non-destructive way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-259
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Anthropogenic impact
  • Biodiversity
  • Intracultural diversity
  • Tropical forest
  • Tsimane' amerindians


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