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Setting up tropical biodiversity for conservation through non-damaging use: participation by parataxonomists

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• A parataxonomist is a resident, field-based, biodiversity inventory specialist who is largely on-the-job trained out of the rural work force and makes a career of providing specimens and their natural history information to the taxasphere, and therefore to a multitude of users across society.

• Any large inventory effort will benefit from a team of parataxonomists, not only through the large quantity of material and information they will gather and process, but through its among-year and within-season continuity.

• Parataxonomists’ accuracy increases substantially with pride of workplace ownership, experience, and detail and continuity of iterative feedback from users of specimens and information.

• Being drawn from the pool of rural workers into activities that are normally the privilege of university-educated citizens, parataxonomists require continuous mentoring and encouragement to compensate for their potential social isolation from their former peer groups and the defensive disdain with which they may be treated by more elevated social classes.

Synthesis and applications. Parataxonomists are a key element in setting up wild biodiversity for non-damaging sustainable development, not only through finding and making biodiversity available, but also by being employed locally by its development. The parataxonomist is to the neighbouring forest as both a literate person and a reference librarian are to a library. Journal of Applied Ecology (2004) 41, 181–187
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Keywords: Area de Conservación Guanacaste; Costa Rica; INBio; biodiversity development; inventory; rural sociology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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