Exploring biocultural diversity in urban ecosystems: an ethnobiological perspective


  • Ulysses Albuquerque Universidade Federal de PernambucoBrazil
  • Ana Ladio
  • Emmanuel Almada
  • Ina Vandebroek
  • María Teresa Pulido Silva
  • Viviane Stern Fonseca-Kruel




Urban ecosystems differ from non-urban ones in the strong and rapid biocultural dynamics generated by the interactions between people from different cultures, at large spatial and temporal scales, and very fast rates. This opinion piece explores the concept of urban ethnobiology as a critical field of research that investigates the complex and dynamic biocultural systems that exist in urban environments. We argue that interactions between humans and other life forms in urban ecosystems are influenced by a characteristic set of social, cultural, and political factors that are linked to urban environments, such as infrastructure development, population density, and governance structures. We emphasize the need for an interdisciplinary approach that brings together experts from different fields to study the inherent complexity of these systems. By examining the sociocultural dynamics that shape the way urban biodiversity is perceived, used, and managed, we can gain deeper insights into the different dimensions of socio-cultural biodiversity in urban areas.


Almada EA (2023) Roça Grande: diversidade biocultural das cidades. Belo Horizonte, Editora SBEE, 274p.

Almada ED, Souza MO (2017) Quintais como patrimônio biocultural. In: Almada ED, Souza MO (Org.). Quintais: Memória, Resistência e Patrimônio Biocultural. 1ed. Belo Horizonte, Editora UEMG, p. 15-29.

Almada ED, Oliveira RAP (2021) A cidade é nossa roça, nossa luta é na carroça?: a Comunidade Tradicional Carroceira de Belo Horizonte e região metropolitana. In: Nascimento CAS, Campos AC, Souza FC, Ayres AD. (Org.). Povos originários e comunodades tradicionais: trabalhos de pesquisa e extensão universitária. 1ed. Porto Alegr, Editora Fi, v.9, p. 180-196.

Alves RRN, de Araújo BMC, da Silva Policarpo I, Pereira HM, Borges AK M, da Silva Vieira, WL, Vasconcellos A (2019) Keeping reptiles as pets in Brazil: ethnozoological and conservation aspects. Journal for Nature Conservation 49: 9-21. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2019.02.002

Alves RRN, Rosa IL (2007) Zootherapy goes to town: The use of animal-based remedies in urban areas of NE and N Brazil. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 113:541-555. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2007.07.015

Avolio ML, Pataki DE, Pincetl S, Gillespie TW, Jenerette GD, McCarthy HR (2015) Understanding preferences for tree attributes: the relative effects of socioeconomic and local environmental factors. Urban Ecosystems 18: 73–86. doi: 10.1007/s11252-014-0388-6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-014-0388-6

Blaser M (2016) Is another cosmopolitics possible? Cultural Anthropology 31(4): 545-570. DOI: https://doi.org/10.14506/ca31.4.05

Briseño Tellez JM, Pulido Silva MT (2022) Las voces de El Arbolito: transdisciplina en el centro de Pachuca. Herreriana 4(1):11-16. https://doi.org/10.29057/h.v4i1.8712 DOI: https://doi.org/10.29057/h.v4i1.8712

Brown K (2016) The Use of Medicinal Plants in Rio De Janeiro's Urban Periphery: an Analysis of Communities' Engagements With Policies. Journal of Ethnobiology 36(4): 861-880. https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-36.4.861 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-36.4.861

Bruce D, Creighton O (2006) Contested identities: The dissonant heritage of European town walls and walled towns. International Journal of Heritage Studies 12 (3): 234-254. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13527250600604498

Ceuterick M, Vandebroek I, Pieroni A (2011) Resilience of Andean urban ethnobotanies: A comparison of medicinal plant use among Bolivian and Peruvian migrants in the United Kingdom and in their countries of origin. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 136 (1): 27–54. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2011.03.038

Chan J, Pennisi L, Francis CA (2016) Social-Ecological Refugees: Reconnecting In Community Gardens In Lincoln, Nebraska. Journal of Ethnobiology 36(4): 842-860. https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-36.4.842 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-36.4.842

Cheng CH, Monroe MC (2012) Connection to nature: Children’s affective attitude toward nature. Environment and Behavior 44: 31–49. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916510385082

De Sousa Santos B, Rodríguez Garavito CA (2007) El derecho a la globalización desde abajo. Hacia una legalidad cosmopólita. Barcelona, editorial Anthropos, UAM Cuajimalpa, 351 pp.

Doodson P, Melfi V, Webber AD, Dumbell L (2022) Animal-visitor interactions in semi-contrived tourism settings: a study of ‘Meet & Greets’ in UK zoos. Tourism Recreation Research 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1080/02508281.2022.2137651 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02508281.2022.2137651

dos Santos JMR (2017) Reshaping the urban space in Portuguese fortified cities: New green spaces resulting from the rehabilitation of urban fortifications. Journal of Urban History 43 (1): 53-69. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144214566960

Emery MR, Hurley PT (2016) Ethnobiology in the City: Embracing the Urban Ecological Moment. Journal of Ethnobiology 36(4): 807-819. https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-36.4.807 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-36.4.807

Esperdy G (2002) Edible urbanism. Architectural Des 72:44–50.

Fa JE, Wright JH, Funk SM, Márquez A, Olivero J, et al. (2019) Mapping the availability of bushmeat for consumption in Central African cities. Environmental Research Letters 14(9): 094002 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab36fa

Ferdinand M (2021) Decolonial ecology: Thinking from the Caribbean world. John Wiley & Sons.

Grimm NB, Grove JM, Pickett STA, Redman CL (2000) Integrated Approaches to long-term studies of urban ecological systems. Bioscience 50: 571–584. doi: 10.1641/0006-3568(2000)050[0571:IATLTO]2.0.CO;2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2000)050[0571:IATLTO]2.0.CO;2

Hoshino TAP, Chueiri, VK (2019) As cores das/os cortes: uma leitura do RE 494601 a partir do racismo religioso. Revista Direito e Práxis 10: 2214-2238. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1590/2179-8966/2019/43887

Hobbs RJ, Arico S, Aronson J, Baron JS, Bridgewater P, Cramer VA et al. (2006) Novel ecosystems: theoretical and management aspects of the new ecological world order. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 15: 1–7. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-822X.2006.00212.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-822X.2006.00212.x

Hope D, Gries C, Zhu W, Fagan WF, Redman CL, Grimm NB, et al. (2003) Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 100: 8788–8792. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1537557100 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1537557100

Hudson A, Smith P, Gori B, Sharrock S (2021) Botanic Garden Collections—An Under-Utilized Resource. American Journal of Plant Sciences 12: 1436-1444. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2021.129101. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4236/ajps.2021.129101

Kirksey SE; Helmreich S (2010) The emergence of multispecies ethnography. Cultural Anthropology 25: 545-576. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1360.2010.01069.x

KAowarik I (2019) The “Green Belt Berlin”: Establishing a greenway where the Berlin Wall once stood by integrating ecological, social and cultural approaches. Landscape and Urban Planning 184: 12-22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.12.008. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.12.008

Ladio A (2020) A new set of tools for Ethnobiologist in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ethnobiology and Conservation 9:29. https://doi.org/10.15451/ec2020-07-9.29-1-8 DOI: https://doi.org/10.15451/ec2020-07-9.29-1-8

Ladio AH, Acosta M (2019) Urban medicinal plant use: Do migrant and nonmigrant populations have similar hybridization processes? Journal of Ethnopharmacology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.01.01f DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.01.013

Ladio AH, Albuquerque UP (2016) Urban Ethnobiology. In: Albuquerque U, Nóbrega Alves R (eds) Introduction to Ethnobiology, Springer, Cham. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28155-1

Ladio AH, Molares S (2014a) Chapter 19. The dynamics of use of nontraditional ethnobiological products: some aspects of study (311-320 pp). In (Albuquerque UP; Cruz Cunha LVF, Lucena RFP, Alves RRN, eds). Methods and Techniques in Ethnobiology and Ethnoecology. Springer, New York. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-8636-7_19

Ladio AH, Molares S (2014b) Capítulo 9. El paisaje patagónico y su gente. In ( Raffaele E, Torres Curth M, Morales CL, Kitzberger T, eds). Ecología e historia natural de la Patagonia Andina: Un cuarto de siglo de investigación en biogeografía, ecología y conservación. Fundación de Historia Natural Félix de Azara, Buenos Aires.

Ladio AH, Molares A, Ochoa J, Cardoso MB (2013) Etnobotánica aplicada en Patagonia: La comercialización de malezas de uso comestible y medicinal en una feria urbana de San Carlos de Bariloche (Río Negro, Argentina). Bol. Latinoam. Caribe Plant Med. Aromat. 12: 24-37.

Learmonth MJ, Chiew SJ, Godinez A, Fernandez EJ (2021) Animal-visitor interactions and the visitor experience: Visitor behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, and learning in the modern zoo. Animal Behaviour Cognition 8(4): 632-49. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.

Longo Blasón M, Molares S, Ladio AH (2022) Las etnoespecies comercializadas en la feria de agricultores de Bariloche (Rio Negro, Argentina) y su versatilidad en alimentos locales: Contribuciones hacia la soberanía alimentaria local. Bol. Soc. Argent. Bot. 57(3): 1-22. https://doi.org/10.31055/1851.2372.v57.n3.37329. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31055/1851.2372.v57.n3.37329

Mc Millen H (2012) Ethnobotanical KnowledgeTransmission and Evolution: The Case of Medicinal Markets in Tanga, Tanzania. Econ. Bot. 66: 121–131. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12231-012-9201-8 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-012-9201-8

Miller A, Novy A, Glover J, Kellogg EA, Maul JE, Raven P, Wyse Jackson P (2015) Expanding the role of botanical gardens in the future of food. Nature Plants 1:15078. https://doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2015.78 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2015.78

Mounce R, Smith P, Brockington S (2017) Ex Situ Conservation of Plant Diversity in the World’s Botanic Gardens. Nature Plants 3: 795-802. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-017-0019-3

Oliveira RAPC (2021) Cultura com data para acabar? Trabalho humano-equino e as vertigens que assolaram carroceiros, veterinários e ativistas da libertação animal numa controvérsia no início do século XXI. Revista Uruguaya de Antropología y Etnografía 6: 13-28,

Perlin R, Kaufman D, Turin M, Daurio M, Craig S, Lampel J (2021) Mapping Urban Linguistic Diversity in New York City: Motives, Methods, Tools, and Outcomes. Language Documentation & Conservation 15: 458-490.

Pieroni A, Vandebroek I (2007) Traveling Cultures and Plants. The Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacy of Human Migrations. Volume 7. Studies in Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology. New York, Berghahn Books.

Primack RB, Ellwood ER, Gallinat AS, Miller-Rushing AJ (2021) The growing and vital role of botanical gardens in climate change research. New Phytologist 231: 917– 932. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.17410

Puentes JP (2016) Etnobotánica urbana: el Conocimiento botánico local sobre las plantas alimenticias y medicinales, y sus usos, en la conurbación Buenos Aires-La Plata (Argentina). Doctoral dissertation. Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Argentina. 300 p.

Rozzi R, Massardo F, Silander J, Dollenz O, Connolly B, Anderson C et al.

(2003) Árboles nativos y exóticos en las plazas de Magallanes. An. Inst. Patagon.

: 27–42.

Russo A, Cirella GT (2019) Edible urbanism 5.0. Palgrave Commun 5: 163. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0377-8 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0377-8

Santos M (2017). Toward an other globalization: from the single thought to universal conscience. London, Springer, 111p. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53892-1

Sõukand R, Stryamets N, Fontefrancesco MF, Pieroni A (2020) The importance of tolerating interstices: Babushka markets in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and their role in maintaining local food knowledge and diversity. Heliyon 6: e03222. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03222

Stålhammar S, Brink E (2021) ‘Urban biocultural diversity’ as a framework for human–nature interactions: reflections from a Brazilian favela. Urban Ecosystem 24: 601–619. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-020-01058-3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-020-01058-3

Svendsen ES, Campbell LK, McMillen HL (2016) Stories, shrines, and symbols: Recognizing psycho-social-spiritual benefits of urban parks and natural areas. Journal of Ethnobiology 36(4): 811-824. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-36.4.881

Sultana R, Hawken S (2023) Reconciling Nature-Technology-Child Connections: Smart Cities and the Necessity of a New Paradigm of Nature-Sensitive Technologies for Today’s Children. Sustainability 15: 6453. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15086453 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su15086453

Toledo VM (2015) Ecocidio en México. La Batalla final es por la vida. México, Editorial Grijalbo. 176 pp.

Ulrich RS (1984) View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science 224: 420-421. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.6143402

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision (ST/ESA/SER.A/420). New York: United Nations. Available at: https://population.un.org/wup/publications/Files/WUP2018-Report.pdf

Urban Green blue grids (2022) The social and economic importance of green and blue areas. Available at: https://www.urbangreenbluegrids.com/social/#:~:text=Green%20areas%20are%20places%20where their%20social%20skills%20and%20concentration.

Vandebroek I (2023) Traveling traditions: Dominican ethnobotany in service of caring for the community. In: Decolonizing Paradise: A Radical Ethnography of Environmental Stewardship in the Caribbean (Ed. Rosalina Diaz). New York, Peter Lang, pp. 203-230.

Vandebroek I, Moerman D (2015) The anthropology of ethnopharmacology. In: Ethnopharmacology (Eds. M. Heinrich and A.K. Jaeger), Hoboken, NJ, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 17-28. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118930717.ch3

Vandebroek I, Balick MJ (2012) Globalization and Loss of Plant Knowledge: Challenging the Paradigm. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37643. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037643 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037643

Vierikko KH, Andersson E, Branquinho C, Elands B, Fischer LK, Goncalves P, Grilo F, Haase D, Ioja C, Kowarik I, Lindgren JM, Mendes R, Niemelä JK, Pieniniemi M, Principe A, Puttonen M, Santos-Reis M, Teixeira D, Vieira J, Yli-Pelkonen VJ (2017) Identifying, Quantifying and Qualifying Biocultural Diversity: Assessment of Biocultural Diversity. (Technical Report; Vuosikerta September 2017). Green surge. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.31780.17289

von Haaren M, Reich M (2006) The German way to greenways and habitat networks. Landscape and Urban Planning 76: 7-22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2004.09.041

Zank S, Ferreira Júnior WS, Hanazaki N, Kujawska M, Ladio A, Martins Santos L, Dias Blanco G, Nascimento ALB (2022) Local ecological knowledge and resilience of ethnomedical systems in a changing world – South American perspectives. Environmental Sciences and Policy 135:117–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2022.04.018 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2022.04.018




How to Cite

Albuquerque, U., Ladio, A., Almada, E., Vandebroek, I., Silva, M. T. P., & Fonseca-Kruel, V. S. . (2023). Exploring biocultural diversity in urban ecosystems: an ethnobiological perspective. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 12. https://doi.org/10.15451/ec2023-06-12.10-1-12