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Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 13, pp 3065–3091 | Cite as

Conserving the Sacred Medicine Mountains: A Vegetation Analysis of Tibetan Sacred Sites in Northwest Yunnan

  • Danica M. Anderson
  • Jan Salick
  • Robert K. Moseley
  • Ou Xiaokun
Article

Abstract.

Mount Kawa Karpo of the Menri ('Medicine Mountains' in Tibetan), in the eastern Himalayas, is one of the most sacred mountains to Tibetan Buddhists. Numerous sacred sites are found between 1900 and 4000 m, and at higher elevations the area as a whole is considered a sacred landscape. Religious beliefs may affect the ecology of these sacred areas, resulting in unique ecological characteristics of importance to conservation; recent studies have demonstrated that sacred areas can often play a major role in conservation. The goal of this study is to preliminarily analyze the vegetation of sacred areas in the Menri region using existing vegetation maps and a Geographical Information System (GIS) for remote assessment. Sacred sites are compared to random points in the landscape, in terms of: elevation, vegetation, and nearness to villages; species composition, diversity, and richness; and frequency of useful and endemic plant species. Detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) ordination reveals that sacred sites differ significantly in both useful species composition (p=0.034) and endemic species composition (p=0.045). Sacred sites are located at lower elevations, and closer to villages, than randomly selected, non-sacred sites (p< 0.0001), and have higher overall species richness (p=0.033) and diversity (p=0.042). In addition, the high-elevation (> 4000 m) areas of the mountain - a sacred landscape - are found to have significantly more endemics than low-elevation areas (p<0.0001). These findings represent an initial analysis of sacred sites and suggest that sacred sites in the Menri region may be ecologically and ethnobotanically unique.

Keywords

Biodiversity Ethnobotany Geographical information system (GIS) Indigenous land management Meili Quantitative conservation biology Sacred geography Sacred sites Tibetan medicine Yunnan 

Abbreviations:

DCA

detrended correspondence analysis

DEM

digital elevation model

GIS

geographical information system

GPS

global positioning system

TAR

Tibetan Autonomous Region

TNC

The Nature Conservancy

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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danica M. Anderson
    • 1
  • Jan Salick
    • 2
  • Robert K. Moseley
    • 3
  • Ou Xiaokun
    • 4
  1. 1.Missouri Botanical GardenSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Curator of EthnobotanyMissouri Botanical GardenSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Director of Conservation ScienceThe Nature ConservancyKunmingChina
  4. 4.Institute of Ecology and GeobotanyYunnan UniversityKunmingChina

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