Mapuche Traditional Knowledge

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.

These forests 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. Source: © Science+Business Media B.V.

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