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Essay: Ethnobiological studies

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  • Published: 1 November 2015*
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The importance of ethnobiological studies has been rec-
ognized, especially among conservation biologists, only in
the last 20 years, primarily due to increased appreciation
of the strong human influence on biodiversity (see [5,7,8]).
Ethnobiological studies are currently being conducted not
only by anthropologists (who were pioneers in the area)
but also by researchers in other fields, such as botany,
zoology, ecology, and agronomy. The involvement of
these researchers reflects the academic growth in the
field of ethnobiology and its multidisciplinary character.
The multidisciplinary characteristics of this science allow
a broad spectrum of approaches and applications as
well as the appearance of various areas of knowledge
related to ethnobiology, such as ethnobotany, ethnozoology,
ethnoecology, ethnomedicine, and ethnopharmacology.
Recent reviews have demonstrated a notable increase
in the number of publications on ethnobiology in Latin
America (see [5,9-11]), mainly in Brazil, Colombia, and
Mexico. These studies have had a significant impact on
scientific production in Latin America. However, an in-
tegrated analysis of the ethnobiological studies produced
in these countries is lacking. Therefore, this study aims to
assess the panorama of ethnobiological research in Latin
America by analyzing its evolution, trends, and future
prospects using a broad concept of ethnobiology that
covers all the sciences listed above, although there are
different views of this concept. This study is based on
the following questions: How many studies have been
published per country and per area of knowledge? How
has the number of publications varied over time in dif-
ferent areas of knowledge and in different countries?
Does any variation exist in the numbers of citations and
international collaborations with regard to the number
of publications per country or area of knowledge?
To conduct this study, we searched for papers in the
Scopus (www.scopus.com) and Web of Science (www.
isiknowledge.com) databases. The search was performed
using combinations of keywords and the name of each
Latin American country. The following countries were
included in this study: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti,
Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela,
and Uruguay. The following keywords were used in combi-
nations in the database searches: ethnobiology, ethno-
ecology, ethnozoology, ethnopharmacology, ethnobiological,
ethnobotanical, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacological, ethno-
veterinary, and ethnoecological. These keywords include
research in which the authors of these studies are as-
sumed to be included in one of these fields.
Accessing all the published studies was not possible
because some journals do not provide online access,
and other journals restrict content. Therefore, our survey
Page 2 of 9
was limited to the most recent studies published between
1963 and 2012 (first semester). The search only included
studies that directly investigated the relationship between
human groups and different types of resources. Therefore,
literature reviews and studies that presented purely pharma-
cological, phytochemical, or bromatological data were
excluded. Studies whose content could be extracted
from the abstracts and from additional information on
the journal’s website were also included. We are aware
that our selection criteria precluded the inclusion of many
studies published in local journals and languages, but we
preferred to use the broader databases to include inter-
national publications.
To compile the database, the following information
was extracted after the paper selection:
a) Country of the first author’s affiliation: the affiliation
information indicated in the paper was recorded.
The nationality of the first author was initially
examined, but this information was not available in
the studies. Therefore, it was not possible to analyze
this aspect;
b) Country in which the study was conducted: the
location of the study described in the papers was
considered. A paper could include studies located in
more than one Latin American country;
c) Year of publication: as indicated in the journal;
d) Area of ethnobiological knowledge: works were
classified primarily according to the classification of
the authors of the study, categorized according to
title, keywords, and a detailed reading of the text.
The following areas of knowledge were considered:
ethnoecology, ethnobiology, ethnobotany,
ethnozoology, ethnopharmacology, ethnomedicine,
ethnoveterinary and ethnomycology;
e) Number of study citations: number of study
citations as indicated in the Scopus database. This
number was used to verify that works with
international collaboration are cited more often than
those without international collaboration;
f ) International collaboration: collaboration was
recorded if the first author of the study was affiliated
with an institution in the study country (even if s/he
was from another country) and one or more of the
secondary authors was affiliated with a foreign
institution. We interpret the concept of international
collaboration as the initiative of the Latin American
researcher. If the survey was conducted on the
initiative of a foreign researcher as part of individual
projects, we do not consider this international
The goodness-of-fit G-test was used to verify
whether significant differences were present in the
number of published studies and international

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