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How ethnobotany can aid biodiversity conservation: reflections on investigations in the semi-arid region of NE Brazil

How ethnobotany can aid biodiversity conservation: reflections on investigations in the semi-arid region of NE Brazil

Ethnobotany is a relatively new discipline but its social and scientific roles are becoming more consistently defined and its importance as a tool for complimenting management and conservation strategies at local and regional levels is now well recognized by the scientific community throughout the world. In the present work we have collected information from four years of ethnobotanical study in an area of caatinga vegetation in the semi-arid region of northeastern Brazil with the goal of defining a model for conservation and management actions in the region. Drawing on ethnobotanical and ecological information obtained through traditional techniques of ethnobotanical and vegetation surveys, we discuss the uses of 166 native and exotic plant species and suggest specific actions and specific groups of species for conservation and sustainable use programs. We also discuss the limitations of our approach and indicate what information must still be collected in order to construct robust and workable plans of action.