Opportunities and Challenges for Ethnobotany at the Start of the Twenty-First Century

  • Monique S.J. Simmonds


Habitat destruction and urbanisation of many parts of the world have contributed to a decrease in the diversity of species being used in agriculture and for economic uses as well as our knowledge about the traditional uses of our biodiversity. The work undertaken by ethnobotanists can assist help access the impact biodiversity loss has on the well being of communities. However, scientists wishing to research biodiversity are faced with having to obtain the correct permits to collect species and any associated traditional knowledge about the uses of these species. This paper provides a summary of the types of agreements that are needed for ethnobotanical studies and the importance of having “prior informed consent” and “Access and Benefit-Sharing” clauses in research agreements, especially when dealing with traditional knowledge.


Genetic Resource Botanic Garden Indigenous Community Traditional Knowledge Intellectual Property Right 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank the many scientists and lawyers that have influenced how I have developed plant-based research projects that include traditional knowledge, especially Darrel Posey, Ghillean Prance, Alan Hamilton, Phyllida Middlemiss, Kerry ten Kate and China Williams as well as the people I have worked with in communities from different parts of Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.


  1. 1.
    Martin, G.J. (1995) Ethnobotany. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cotton, C.M. (1997) Ethnobotany: Principles and Application. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lukhoba, C.W. et al (2006) Plectranthus: a review of ethnobotanical uses. J. Ethnopharm. 103, 1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Asase, A. et al (2006) Ethnobotanical study of some Ghanaian anti-malarial plants. J. Ethnopharm. 99, 273–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Alexiades, M.N. (2004) Ethnobiology and globalization: science and ethics at the turn of the century. In Ethnobotany and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity (Carlson, T.J.S. and Maffi, L., eds.), pp. 283–305. Adv. Econ. Bot. 15, The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NYGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Simmonds, M.S.J. (2003) Novel drugs from botanical sources. Drug Discov. Today 8, 721–722PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Wynberg, R. (2004) Rhetoric, realism and benefit-sharing: use of traditional knowledge of Hoodia species in the development of an appetite suppressant. J. World Intell. Prop. 4, 856Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2008) Convention on Biological Diversity (
  9. 9.
    Carlson, T.J.S. and Maffi, L. (2004) Advances in Economic Botany, vol 15, The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NYGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2006) Database on ABS Measures (
  11. 11.
    Government Gazette, South Africa (2008) National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 2004, Regulations on Bio-Prospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing 2008 (
  12. 12.
    Posey, D.A. (2002) Commodification of the sacred through Intellectual Property Rights. J. Ethnopharm. 83, 3–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    World Trade Agreements (1994) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) (
  14. 14.
    Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2007) Working Group on Article 8(j) (
  15. 15.
    Kursar, T.A. et al (2007) Linking bioprospecting with sustainable development and conservation: the Panama case. Biodiv. Conserv. 16, 2789–2800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2002) Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising out of their Utilization. Montreal (
  17. 17.
    Laird, S. (2002) Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Swiss Academy of Science (2006) Benefit sharing (
  19. 19.
    Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (2001) Principles on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing (
  20. 20.
    Cheyne, P. (2004) Access and Benefit-Sharing Agreements: bridging the gap between scientific partnerships and the Convention on Biological Diversity. In Seed Conservation: Turning Science into Practice (Smith, R.D. et al., eds.), Royal Botanic Gardens, KewGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    World Intellectual Property Organisations (WIPO) (2008) Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Traditional Cultural Expressions/Folklore (
  22. 22.
    Maffi, L. (2004) Maintaining and restoring biocultural diversity: the evolution of a role for ethnobotany. In Ethnobotancy and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity (Carlson, T.J.S. and Maffi, L., eds.), pp. 9–35. Adv. Econ. Bot. 15, The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NYGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Carrizosa, S. et al (2004) Accessing biodiversity and sharing the benefits: lessons from implementing the Convention on biological diversity. IUCN, Environmental Law Centre; IUCN, Environmental Law Programme; University of California, Genetic Resources Conservation Program; Germany, Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development –IUCN, GlandGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Shiva, V. (1997) Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. South End Press, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2008) Global Strategy on Plant Conservation (
  26. 26.
    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2008) (
  27. 27.
    Planta Europa (2008) A sustainable future for Europe and European Strategy for Plant Conservation 2008–2014. Plantlife International (Salisbury, UK) and the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, France)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Hamilton, A. and Hamilton, P. (2006) Plant Conservation: An Ecosystem Approach. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Maffi, L. (2001) On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge and the Environment. Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington, DC/LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Eshbaugh, W.H. (2008) A dilemma: economic/ethnobotanical research in the twenty-first century. Econ. Bot. 62, 3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Royal Botanic Gardens, KewRichmond SurreyUK

Personalised recommendations