Human Ecology

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 653–667 | Cite as

Scholarly vs. Traditional Knowledge: Effects of Sacred Natural Sites on Ethnobotanical Practices in Tuscany, Central Italy

  • Giulia MattaliaEmail author
  • Renata Sõukand
  • Paolo Corvo
  • Andrea Pieroni


Sacred Natural Sites (SNSs), found in all inhabited continents, are cultural landscapes of spiritual significance for local communities. As they are believed to influence Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), we documented the use of wild and semi-domesticated plants for food and medicine in four villages located at different distances from SNSs in Central Italy. Results may indicate that SNSs, which have been managed and inhabited for centuries by monastic communities, have had a restrictive impact on local TEK, as the communities located near SNSs reported fewer traditional uses for plants than those living further from the same SNSs. One possible explanation is that the Scholarly Knowledge (SK) held by the monastic communities of SNSs competed with the TEK of the surrounding villages and this resulted in a smaller body of plant-related folk knowledge, practices and beliefs retained by the people living in the vicinity of SNSs. Further studies should address the past and current mechanisms of competition and/or osmosis between TEK and SK in terms of both daily practices and beliefs/theoretical knowledge.


Ethnobotany Ethnomedicine Traditional ecological knowledge Sacred natural sites Tuscany, Italy 



Special thanks to all the informants who kindly share their folk plant knowledge.

Funding Information

This research was funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research Funds through the PRIN project ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services in Sacred Natural Sites (BIOESSaNS)’, Nr. 2015P8524C, as well as by the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo, Italy.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Gastronomic SciencesBraItaly
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and StatisticsCa’ Foscari University of VeniceVeneziaItaly

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