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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera1777
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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


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