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Integrating Ethnobiological Knowledge Into Biodiversity Conservation in the Eastern Himalayas


Integrating Ethnobiological Knowledge Into Biodiversity Conservation in the Eastern Himalayas

Alexander R O'Neill et al. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed.


Biocultural knowledge provides valuable insight into ecological processes, and can guide conservation practitioners in local contexts. In many regions, however, such knowledge is underutilized due to its often-fragmented record in disparate sources. In this article, we review and apply ethnobiological knowledge to biodiversity conservation in the Eastern Himalayas. Using Sikkim, India as a case study, we: (i) traced the history and trends of ethnobiological documentation; (ii) identified priority species and habitat types; and, (iii) analyzed within and among community differences pertaining to species use and management. Our results revealed that Sikkim is a biocultural hotspot, where six ethnic communities and 1128 species engage in biocultural relationships. Since the mid-1800s, the number of ethnobiological publications from Sikkim has exponentially increased; however, our results also indicate that much of this knowledge is both unwritten and partitioned within an aging, gendered, and caste or ethnic group-specific stratum of society. Reviewed species were primarily wild or wild cultivated, native to subtropical and temperate forests, and pend IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessment. Our results demonstrate the value of engaging local knowledge holders as active participants in conservation, and suggest the need for further ethnobiological research in the Eastern Himalayas. Our interdisciplinary approach, which included rank indices and geospatial modelling, can help integrate diverse datasets into evidence-based policy.

Keywords: Biocultural diversity; Ethnobotany; India; Local ecological knowledge; Sikkim; Traditional knowledge.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Spatio-temporal review of site-specific records in the Sikkim Eastern Himalayas
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Publication of ethnobiological records from 1950 to 2016
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Biocultural hotspots in the Sikkim Eastern Himalayas

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