Limitations and Applications of Parataxonomy for Community Forest Management in Southwestern Amazonia


  • Christopher Baraloto
  • Evandro Ferreira
  • Cara Rockwell
  • Francisco Walthier


We examined the limitations of parataxonomic inventories for developing management plans for woody plant resources in tropical rain forests of southwestern Amazonia. Using compilations of herbarium labels, forest personnel interviews and published species descriptions, we assessed the accuracy of common names as parataxonomic units (PUs). We identified 384 common names for 310 harvested woody plant species in the Brazilian state of Acre, of which only 50% were unique to a single taxonomic species. About 10% of common names referred to more than one species, more than half of which included multiple genera. For the 106 species from the Acre sample common to the MAP region including Madre de Dios, Peru and Pando, Bolivia, we identified 198 common names. Splitting was much more frequent in this sample, with more than 80% of species having more than one common name. When the Acre sample was expanded to 131 species from the Brazilian Amazon region, including the states of Amazonas and Para, we identified 740 common names, with nearly 90% of species being represented by more than one common name. Errors and inaccuracy of parataxonomy may contribute to market instability if product orders can not be homogenized within regional markets, and to unsustainable harvests if species are mistakenly lumped into single parataxonomic units. We discuss several programs currently being implemented by our collaborative team in the region to address this issue, including field guides based on digital photography, field courses, and workshops featuring discussions between regional inventory personnel and botanists.




How to Cite

Baraloto, C., Ferreira, E., Rockwell, C., & Walthier, F. (2007). Limitations and Applications of Parataxonomy for Community Forest Management in Southwestern Amazonia. Ethnobotany Research and Applications, 5, 077–084. Retrieved from