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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 1079–1093 | Cite as

Mapuche perceptions and conservation of Andean Nothofagus forests and their medicinal plants: a case study from a rural community in Patagonia, Argentina

  • Soledad Molares
  • Ana Ladio
Original Paper

Abstract

In a Mapuche community situated in the sub-antarctic forest of the northwest of Argentine Patagonia, analysis was carried out on forest environmental perception and its relation to the resilience of the body of traditional botanical knowledge regarding medicinal plants. Data was obtained on the ethno-classification and differential use of the forest gathering environment with respect to its practical and cultural value. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 30 randomly chosen inhabitants, and the data were analysed using qualitative methods and non-parametric statistics. Most citations (64.5%) were of species gathered in Nothofagus antarctica forest, 26.2% were of species from N. pumilio forest, and 20.3% referred to species from a mixed forest, with N. dombeyi. The forests studied have low values for similarity in terms of medicinal species richness, indicating a unique offer of therapeutic resources in each one. The use of the different forest types seems to be associated with the search for therapeutic resources for specific ailments. However, the redundancy of functions of species in each forest type can offer alternative remedies, which provides plant conservation, security and the possibility of reorganisation of their traditional medicinal knowledge. This case study showed the importance of considering folk systems and the role that this knowledge has played in plant resource management and forest protection. Different forests are used and valued differentially, not only with regard to usefulness but also in symbolic-religious terms, and together they fulfil a cushioning function, protecting holistically traditional botanical knowledge, people’s health and forests. It is of great importance, therefore, that conservation policies favouring environmental heterogeneity are implemented, and that local inhabitants participate in the development of management plans.

Keywords

Ethnobotany Ethno-classification Medicinal uses Resilience 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Our thanks are due to the inhabitants of the community at Lago Rosario, for their friendly disposition and generous help. This research was supported by the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET, PIP 00337), the Universidad Nacional del Comahue and Fondo Nacional de Ciencia y Técnica (FONCYT) of Argentina (Grant PICT 07-02289).

Supplementary material

10531_2012_241_MOESM1_ESM.doc (146 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 146 kb)
10531_2012_241_MOESM2_ESM.doc (136 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 135 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INIBIOMA, CONICET-Universidad Nacional del ComahueBarilocheArgentina

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