Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal
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Recursos vegetales útiles en diez comunidades de la sierra madre del sur, Oaxaca, México

Lists of useful plants are the basis for understanding cultural patterns that support traditional knowledge. Some areas like the Sierra Madre del Sur of Oaxaca have been poorly studied even though they include highly diverse and preserved ecosystems, and despite of the presence of ethnic groups like the Zapotecs. Such studies are necessary to understand the complex ways people interact with and conserve nature in conjunction with the development of agriculture and forestry. The present study reports on the plant resources gathered in 10 communities of this region. The objectives were: 1) to contribute to the knowledge of the useful plants of 10 communities in the Sierra Madre del Sur of Oaxaca, 2) to determine the number of plant families represented by the useful plants in this region, and 3) to determine the amount of variation in the plants used among the 10 communities. We recorded 555 species belonging to 301 genera and 113 families, of which 20 included some 50% of the useful species. Each family is represented by at least two useful species. The most important families are Fabaceae, Asteraceae and Solanaceae. The most important categories of use are medicine with 58 families and food with 44. Of the eight life forms recorded, trees are the most often represented with 237 species, while herbs are in second place with 119. All the life forms have diverse uses; nevertheless, herbs have most often been selected as medicinal plants, whereas trees are preferentially used for construction. Their distribution of useful plants among the communities is heterogeneous in terms of number of species and plant families used and categories of use. Groups observed in the phenogram are those related with communities located in similar vegetation no matter what their ethnic composition (e.g., zapotecos or mestizos). We concluded that there is a high proportion of useful plants related to the area analyzed, that a restricted number of plant families contain most of the useful species, and that trees represent the most recognized and used life form, all of which suggest that this area still exhibits high levels of conservation. Nevertheless, this hypothesis most be probed with fi eld work.