Bridging local and scientific knowledge for area-based conservation of useful plants in Colombia

Laura Kor, Mateo Fernández-Lucero, Diego Arturo Granados Flórez, Terence P. Dawson, Mauricio Diazgranados*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the importance of interdisciplinary approaches is increasingly recognised in conservation, bridging knowledge systems across scales remains a fundamental challenge. Focusing on the Important Plant Areas (IPA) approach, we evaluate how complementing scientific and local knowledge can better inform the conservation of useful plants in Colombia. We worked in three municipalities to investigate knowledge on useful plant richness, species composition and use types, as well as perceptions on area-based plant conservation approaches. Participatory focus groups and ethnobotanical walks-in-the-woods were undertaken with local communities, while scientific data were represented by occurrence records from global data aggregators and digitised collections. A total of 1190 species with human uses were reported. Combining knowledge systems provided the richest understanding of useful plants but the relative contribution of each system varied between study areas, influenced by the history of scientific studies, socio-ecological context and study design. Meanwhile, local perceptions of how conservation areas should be selected differed from global IPA criteria. These results show that working with local communities can improve biological understanding for spatial conservation planning. Additionally, participatory approaches must move beyond community-based conservation and data collection, to inform the design of global conservation programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-323
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Conservation prioritisation
  • Ethnobotany
  • Important Plant Areas
  • Socio-ecological systems
  • Sustainable use
  • Useful plant species


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