Conserving the Sacred Medicine Mountains: A Vegetation Analysis of Tibetan Sacred Sites in Northwest Yunnan
Source: Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 14, Number 13, December 2005 , pp. 3065-3091(27)
Abstract:Mount Kawa Karpo of the Menri ('Medicine Mountains' in Tibetan), in the eastern Himalayas, is one of the most sacred mountains to Tibetan Buddhists. Numerous sacred sites are found between 1900 and 4000 m, and at higher elevations the area as a whole is considered a sacred landscape. Religious beliefs may affect the ecology of these sacred areas, resulting in unique ecological characteristics of importance to conservation; recent studies have demonstrated that sacred areas can often play a major role in conservation. The goal of this study is to preliminarily analyze the vegetation of sacred areas in the Menri region using existing vegetation maps and a Geographical Information System (GIS) for remote assessment. Sacred sites are compared to random points in the landscape, in terms of: elevation, vegetation, and nearness to villages; species composition, diversity, and richness; and frequency of useful and endemic plant species. Detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) ordination reveals that sacred sites differ significantly in both useful species composition (p=0.034) and endemic species composition (p=0.045). Sacred sites are located at lower elevations, and closer to villages, than randomly selected, non-sacred sites (p< 0.0001), and have higher overall species richness (p=0.033) and diversity (p=0.042). In addition, the high-elevation (> 4000 m) areas of the mountain - a sacred landscape - are found to have significantly more endemics than low-elevation areas (p<0.0001). These findings represent an initial analysis of sacred sites and suggest that sacred sites in the Menri region may be ecologically and ethnobotanically unique.
Keywords: Biodiversity; Ethnobotany; Geographical information system (GIS); Indigenous land management; Meili; Quantitative conservation biology; Sacred geography; Sacred sites; Tibetan medicine; Yunnan
Document Type: Research article
Affiliations: 1: Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, 63166, St. Louis, MO, USA, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 2: Curator of Ethnobotany, Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, 63166, St. Louis, MO, USA, 3: Director of Conservation Science, The Nature Conservancy, Xin Hua Plaza 20th Floor, 8 East Ren Min Road, 650051, Kunming, Yunnan, China, 4: Institute of Ecology and Geobotany, Yunnan University, Wen Ling Street, 650051, Kunming, Yunnan, China,
Publication date: 2005-12-01