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Environment change threatens indigenous know-how
Date:2/13/2014

studied 12 ethnic groups from Nepal and recorded what plants different cultures use in traditional medicine. They calculated similarities in their medicinal floras and also calculated similarities in the floras these cultures are exposed to, how closely related they are, and their geographic separation.

"We found that Nepalese cultures that are exposed to similar floras use similar plant medicines.

"Although shared cultural history and borrowing of traditional knowledge among neighbouring cultures can lead to similarities in the plants used medicinally, we found that plant availability in the local environment has a stronger influence on the make-up of a culture's medicinal floras.

"Essentially, this means that the environment plays a huge role in shaping traditional knowledge. This is very important, especially when you think of the risks that these cultures are already facing.

"Due to ongoing environmental changes we are observing across the globe, we might lose certain plant species which will lead to changed ecosystems, and an overall poorer natural environment. This will then affect what plants people can use around them.

"We should be concerned about the fate of the traditional knowledge of these cultures. However, understanding the factors that shape traditional knowledge can provide the underpinnings to preserve this body of knowledge and predict its future."

This research was published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


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