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Evidence of the shifting baseline syndrome in ethnobotanical research.

Hanazaki N, Herbst DF, Marques MS, Vandebroek I - J Ethnobiol Ethnomed (2013)

Bottom Line: Evidence of shifting baseline syndrome can be found in studies dealing with intracultural variation of knowledge, when knowledge from different generations is compared and combined with information about changes in the environment and/or natural resources.Changes in the landscape or in the abundance of plant resources may be associated with changes in ethnobotanical repertoires held by people of different age groups.Unraveling the complexity of changes in local knowledge systems in relation to environmental changes will allow the identification of more meaningful information for resource conservation.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratory of Human Ecology and Ethnobotany, Ecology and Zoology Department, Federal University of Santa Catarina, ECZ-CCB-UFSC, Florianópolis, SC 88010-970, Brazil. natalia@ccb.ufsc.br.

ABSTRACT

Background: The shifting baseline syndrome is a concept from ecology that can be analyzed in the context of ethnobotanical research. Evidence of shifting baseline syndrome can be found in studies dealing with intracultural variation of knowledge, when knowledge from different generations is compared and combined with information about changes in the environment and/or natural resources.

Methods: We reviewed 84 studies published between 1993 and 2012 that made comparisons of ethnobotanical knowledge according to different age classes. After analyzing these studies for evidence of the shifting baseline syndrome (lower knowledge levels in younger generations and mention of declining abundance of local natural resources), we searched within these studies for the use of the expressions "cultural erosion", "loss of knowledge", or "acculturation".

Results: The studies focused on different groups of plants (e.g. medicinal plants, foods, plants used for general purposes, or the uses of specific important species). More than half of all 84 studies (57%) mentioned a concern towards cultural erosion or knowledge loss; 54% of the studies showed evidence of the shifting baseline syndrome; and 37% of the studies did not provide any evidence of shifting baselines (intergenerational knowledge differences but no information available about the abundance of natural resources).

Discussion and conclusions: The general perception of knowledge loss among young people when comparing ethnobotanical repertoires among different age groups should be analyzed with caution. Changes in the landscape or in the abundance of plant resources may be associated with changes in ethnobotanical repertoires held by people of different age groups. Also, the relationship between the availability of resources and current plant use practices rely on a complexity of factors. Fluctuations in these variables can cause changes in the reference (baseline) of different generations and consequently be responsible for differences in intergenerational knowledge. Unraveling the complexity of changes in local knowledge systems in relation to environmental changes will allow the identification of more meaningful information for resource conservation.

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Number of subjects or interviews (sample units) from the 84 studies on ethnobotany and age comparisons.
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Figure 2: Number of subjects or interviews (sample units) from the 84 studies on ethnobotany and age comparisons.

Mentions: Sampling methods and data collection varied according to the objectives of each study. Data collection through interviews included both intentional sampling, and systematic sampling, the latter being a sampling procedure with a higher degree of randomness. Other data collection tools included focus group discussions and participative workshops. Sample sizes were highly variable (Figure 2), ranging from 13 subjects[104] to more than 90,000 subjects[97]. There was also diversity among ecosystems and human groups studied, as well as types of data analyzed. For example, although most studies focused on the knowledge about plant resources, there were studies dealing with knowledge associated with the broad use of a given resource, such as in Brosi et al.[32] who studied knowledge of canoe building as a whole.


Evidence of the shifting baseline syndrome in ethnobotanical research.

Hanazaki N, Herbst DF, Marques MS, Vandebroek I - J Ethnobiol Ethnomed (2013)

Number of subjects or interviews (sample units) from the 84 studies on ethnobotany and age comparisons.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3842669&req=5

Figure 2: Number of subjects or interviews (sample units) from the 84 studies on ethnobotany and age comparisons.
Mentions: Sampling methods and data collection varied according to the objectives of each study. Data collection through interviews included both intentional sampling, and systematic sampling, the latter being a sampling procedure with a higher degree of randomness. Other data collection tools included focus group discussions and participative workshops. Sample sizes were highly variable (Figure 2), ranging from 13 subjects[104] to more than 90,000 subjects[97]. There was also diversity among ecosystems and human groups studied, as well as types of data analyzed. For example, although most studies focused on the knowledge about plant resources, there were studies dealing with knowledge associated with the broad use of a given resource, such as in Brosi et al.[32] who studied knowledge of canoe building as a whole.

Bottom Line: Evidence of shifting baseline syndrome can be found in studies dealing with intracultural variation of knowledge, when knowledge from different generations is compared and combined with information about changes in the environment and/or natural resources.Changes in the landscape or in the abundance of plant resources may be associated with changes in ethnobotanical repertoires held by people of different age groups.Unraveling the complexity of changes in local knowledge systems in relation to environmental changes will allow the identification of more meaningful information for resource conservation.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratory of Human Ecology and Ethnobotany, Ecology and Zoology Department, Federal University of Santa Catarina, ECZ-CCB-UFSC, Florianópolis, SC 88010-970, Brazil. natalia@ccb.ufsc.br.

ABSTRACT

Background: The shifting baseline syndrome is a concept from ecology that can be analyzed in the context of ethnobotanical research. Evidence of shifting baseline syndrome can be found in studies dealing with intracultural variation of knowledge, when knowledge from different generations is compared and combined with information about changes in the environment and/or natural resources.

Methods: We reviewed 84 studies published between 1993 and 2012 that made comparisons of ethnobotanical knowledge according to different age classes. After analyzing these studies for evidence of the shifting baseline syndrome (lower knowledge levels in younger generations and mention of declining abundance of local natural resources), we searched within these studies for the use of the expressions "cultural erosion", "loss of knowledge", or "acculturation".

Results: The studies focused on different groups of plants (e.g. medicinal plants, foods, plants used for general purposes, or the uses of specific important species). More than half of all 84 studies (57%) mentioned a concern towards cultural erosion or knowledge loss; 54% of the studies showed evidence of the shifting baseline syndrome; and 37% of the studies did not provide any evidence of shifting baselines (intergenerational knowledge differences but no information available about the abundance of natural resources).

Discussion and conclusions: The general perception of knowledge loss among young people when comparing ethnobotanical repertoires among different age groups should be analyzed with caution. Changes in the landscape or in the abundance of plant resources may be associated with changes in ethnobotanical repertoires held by people of different age groups. Also, the relationship between the availability of resources and current plant use practices rely on a complexity of factors. Fluctuations in these variables can cause changes in the reference (baseline) of different generations and consequently be responsible for differences in intergenerational knowledge. Unraveling the complexity of changes in local knowledge systems in relation to environmental changes will allow the identification of more meaningful information for resource conservation.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus