Review Article

Peer-reviewed research based on the relationship between South African cultures and biodiversity

Fortunate M. Phaka, Louis H. du Preez, Jean Huge, Maarten P.M. Vanhove
Koedoe | Vol 66, No 1 | a1777 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v66i1.1777 | © 2024 Fortunate M. Phaka, Louis H. du Preez, Jean Huge, Maarten P.M. Vanhove | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 June 2023 | Published: 12 February 2024

About the author(s)

Fortunate M. Phaka, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa; and Research Group Zoology, Biodiversity and Toxicology, Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium; and South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Makhanda, South Africa
Louis H. du Preez, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa; and South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Makhanda, South Africa
Jean Huge, Research Group Zoology, Biodiversity and Toxicology, Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium; and Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, the Netherlands; and Department of Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
Maarten P.M. Vanhove, Research Group Zoology, Biodiversity and Toxicology, Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium

Abstract

Understanding past and present relationships of traditional cultures with biodiversity through biocultural research can help inform inclusive conservation policy and planning in a country seeking to undo past injustices such as South Africa. This review of 326 articles published between 1990 and 2019 maps the methodology employed in biocultural research, the focus of this research niche, ethical conduct and research recommendations to understand the state of biocultural research and make recommendations for biocultural research that is representative of South Africa’s diverse cultural landscape. This systematic review of original research articles indexed on the Scopus database found South African biocultural research to exclude Swati and Ndebele cultures while having an unevenly strong focus on plants, human health sciences, rural areas, and three of the country’s nine provinces. Some of this unevenness is likely because of utility of plants in human health and association of traditional practices with rural areas. Using a systematic review approach for this study not only ensured replicability but it also introduced a limitation of the results only being applicable to peer-reviewed articles indexed on the Scopus database.

Conservation implications: Biocultural research’s strong focus on utilitarian use could encourage conservation policy that favours utilitarian use of wildlife. An even focus in biocultural research is recommended to avoid the knowledge pool for conservation policy being mostly focussed on utilitarian value.


Keywords

biodiversity; biocultural diversity; cultural diversity; cultural anthropology; ethnobiology; indigenous knowledge systems; integrative conservation; sustainability.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 15: Life on land

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