Ethnoecological Importance Value (EIV) Methodology: Assessing the cultural importance of ecosystems as sources of useful plants for the Guaymi people of Costa Rica
AbstractThe study took place in the Guaymi Indigenous Reserve of Coto Brus, in the southern Pacific region of Punta Arenas, Costa Rica. The purpose of the project was to investigate the cultural importance of different successional stages for providing the Guaymi with wild food plants and to test a new methodology for evaluating the ethnoecological importance of each successional stage. Forty six members of the community were interviewed about wild foods. Free listing was used to collect the data from each informant. Then, the abundance of edible plants (those obtained from the interviews) was studied in five different successional stages in the field. This article introduces the Ethnoecological Importance Value (EIV) index that evaluates the ethnoecological importance of ecosystems as sources of useful plants of one particular use-class. The EIV combines the salience of each species in freelists (cultural data) with its abundance in the different successional stages (ecological data). Fifty three species of plants and one species of fungus were recorded. Through projections of the species informant-curve, a total of 63 species were estimated to make up the Guaymi wild-food-plant cognitive domain. Significant differences in the ethnoecological importance of different successional stages were found. To the Guaymi, the most culturally valuable successional stages, in terms of being sources of wild edible plants, were the mature forests and their edges. Early secondary growth and older secondary forests and their edges were of minor importance.
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