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The influence of socioeconomic factors on traditional knowledge: a cross scale comparison of palm use in northwestern South America

Narel Y. Paniagua-Zambrana, Herbario Nacional de Bolivia, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Cota Cota, La Paz, Bolivia
Rodrigo Camara-Lerét, Departamento de Biología, Área de Botánica, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain
Rainer W Bussmann, William L. Brown Center, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Manuel J Macía, Departamento de Biología, Área de Botánica, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain


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We explored the power of 14 socioeconomic factors for predicting differences in traditional knowledge about palms (Arecaceae) at the personal, household, and regional levels in 25 locations in the Amazon, Andes, and Chocó of northwestern South America. Using semistructured interviews, we gathered data on palm uses from 2050 informants in 53 communities and four countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia ). We performed multilevel statistical analyses, which showed that the influence of each socioeconomic factor differed depending on whether the analysis was performed on the overall palm knowledge or on individual use categories. At the general palm knowledge level, gender was the only factor that had a significant association in all five subregions, and showed that men had more knowledge than women, and age had a positive significant association only in the lowlands. Most of the analyzed socioeconomic factors had a greater influence on the lowland ecoregions of the Amazon and Chocó, although there were mixed trends in these ecoregions. Our results show that there are no regional patterns in the predictive power of socioeconomic factors and that their influence on palm-use knowledge is highly localized. We can conclude that (1) conservation strategies of traditional knowledge of palm use in the region should be developed mainly at the local level, and (2) large-scale comparable ethnoecological studies are necessary to understand indigenous communities’ livelihoods at different scales.

Key words

Arecaceae; indigenous communities; livelihood; quantitative ethnobotany; traditional ecological knowledge; tropical rainforests

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087