Use and extraction of medicinal plants by the Fulni-ô indians in northeastern Brazil – implications for local conservation

Ulysses Paulino de Albuquerque, Gustavo Taboada Soldati, Shana Sampaio Sieber, Ernani Machado de Freitas Lins Neto, Jemerson Caetano de Sá, Liliane Cunha de Souza


The aims of this study were: to characterize the knowledge and traditional uses of two important medicinal
plants from northeastern Brazil, Myracrodruon urundeuva (aroeira) and Sideroxylon obtusifolium (quixaba); to quantitatively
analyze the bark collection process of these two species, and; to evaluate the population structure of these species in the
Ouricuri Forest, a native and sacred forest recognized as one of the collection sites of these resources. The study was
conducted in the Fulni-ô Indigenous Land (IL) located in the municipality of Águas Belas, Pernambuco State. This study
was part of an ethnobotanical survey in the Fulni-ô IL and formed one of the lines of action of the project “Studies for the
Environmental and Cultural Sustainability of the Fulni-ô Medical System: Office of Medicinal Plant Care”. In this study,
344 semi-structured interviews were carried out between November 2007 and March 2008 from a stratified random
sample of the Fulni-ô population in the indian settlement (only including men and women over the age of 15). The
interview script included specific questions regarding the interviewees’ knowledge and use of aroeira and quixaba. To
analyze the population structure and level of exploitation of aroeira and quixaba populations, we used two complementary
techniques, 200-point quadrat sampling and walk-through sampling, in the Ouricuri Forest. Our data confirmed that
aroeira is widely known by the Fulni-ô, while quixaba is known by fewer people in the community. Bark is the primary
plant part used by the indigenous population. During the collection of aroeira, for example, tree size is used as a selective
criterion. Neither species exhibits the reverse J-shaped population structure typical of stable populations. Few adult
individuals are present, possibly due to selective logging targeted at such individuals. The two species studied here are also
used for timber, increasing the pressure on their populations. Finally, despite the local scope of our findings, we briefly
discuss their implications at both a local and a regional scale.

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