Ethnobotanists with the CAS Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB) in southwest China's Yunnan Province have made great progresses since they established China's first ethnobotanical laboratory in 1987.
Ethnobotany is an interdisciplinary study, covering botany, ethnography, ecology, linguistics, pharmacy, agriculture, horticulture, sociology and economics. From the 1980s, the KIB ethnobotanists have undertaken a series of research into the traditional knowledge and practical experiences of a particular culture and region in terms of the utilization and exploitation of plant resources. Their findings are of significance for promoting the sustainable development of the plant resources, and protecting the biological and cultural diversity.
The past 17 years have witnessed a rapid development of the new discipline at KIB in theoretical exploration and practicable application, which are appreciated by researchers both at home and abroad.
The field of basic research is mainly focused on regional ethnobotany, the ethnobotanical studies of useful plants and traditional use practices, e. g. the bamboo and rattan plants in Xishuangbanna, the ethnobotanical survey of trade plants in NW Yunnan, flower-eating plants and cultures in Yunnan.
In the field of applied research, remarkable progresses have been accomplished in the fields, e. g. the new drug development from ethnomedicine, the community-based biodiversity conservation and the poverty alleviation in mountainous areas. In this aspect, the following R&D projects are noted for their research results and popularization benefits: the swidden agroecosystem and biodiversity in Xishuangbanna, the development of an anti-flu ointment extracted from ethnomedicine used by the Hani people, agrobiodiversity conservation of the Yi community in the Zixishan Mountain of Chuxiong County, the rehabilitation of the "Holy Mountain" in Dai Communities and the re-introduction of sacred plants in Buddhist temples in Xishuangbanna, the community-based agrobiodiversity conservation in the Gaoligong Mountains as well as the poverty alleviation in the area of Mingzishan of Jiangcheng County.
Their studies also shed light on the understanding of the co-evolution between biodiversity and cultural diversity, showing the constructive impact of traditional beliefs on the biodiversity conservation and environmental protection. To a certain degree, these studies have changed the popular view which completely negates the role played by the traditional beliefs among the tribal peoples, providing favorable factors to mobilize all relevant parties to take part in the current actions for the harmony between man and nature.
At the same time, the ethnobotanists have succeeded in establishing wide cooperative ties with such international organizations as the US Macarthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, WWF, UNESCO, International Center for Integrated Mountain Development and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute(IPGRI). The actvities include the global symposia, research projects, and regional training and demonstration programs. In addition, some research projects have been funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China recently.[Page]