ABOUT THE INCT
What is the relevance of proposing an INCT (acronym in Portuguese) that involves Ethnobiology, Bioprospecting and Nature Conservation? Ethnobiology is an increasingly expanding field in prominence, especially in developing countries because of the great biological and cultural diversity present in these regions. In addition, the environmental issues related to the management and conservation of natural resources and the need to develop and discover new natural products to meet the growing human demand for biological resources make it necessary to produce scientific knowledge and to train qualified human resources to address these issues appropriately from theoretical and methodological points of view. To the best of our knowledge, the creation of this INCT aims to meet a demand for systematic studies on the nature-society interface and to develop natural products (new drugs) on a sustainable basis. In Brazil, there are several efforts for the conservation and development of new drugs. However, this INCT includes three research groups that are a reference in three different fields of knowledge that can enable the achievement of the objective: Ethnobiology, Bioprospecting and Nature Conservation.
Furthermore, Nature Conservation cannot currently be discussed without considering all involved dimensions, whether scientific, political or ideological. The inclusion of humans in this discussion as transforming agents of both landscape and natural resources has become obvious, but unfortunately, it has been neglected. Typically, humans are considered factors that affect ecological processes but are not considered elements that belong to and historically interact with living organisms and different ecosystems. In this context, Ethnobiology emerges as a science that may contribute to train professionals who can consider the relationships between humans and nature as their research subject.
But, what is Ethnobiology? Ethnobiology seeks to observe, understand and record the relationships between individuals (whether traditional or non-traditional populations) and the environment where they live. Despite being a new area of study compared with other scientific fields, Ethnobiology has contributed to relevant topics of knowledge, such as biodiversity conservation and the discovery of new molecules with pharmacological activity. Ethnobiology has been considered a border discipline that, because of its interdisciplinary nature, enables dialogue with other fields of knowledge. Therefore, it is common for anthropologists, ecologists, biologists, geographers, agronomists, pharmacists, and other individuals to work in the Ethnobiology field and define their research interests based on their academic background. In Latin America, for example, the majority of the researchers who work in this field are from the life sciences, and this aspect is particularly more evident in Brazil.
Considering the scenario in which this proposal is configured that, to the best of our knowledge, is the first one in this category in Brazil, our INCT program aims to fill gaps in the scientific knowledge related to the use, management and benefit of fauna and flora, especially in Northeastern Brazil. Because this is a pioneering proposal (Figure 1), we chose Northeastern Brazil to implement and assess the research model of this proposal. Therefore, our program aims to achieve the following:
1. Expand the human resources training in the interface between nature and society;
2. Progress knowledge regarding the medical and pharmaceutical potential of fauna and flora, thereby associating it with their preservation;
3. Develop strategies to transfer the produced scientific and technological knowledge to society.
Our mission is to develop a scientific research program that promotes Brazil as a reference in studies that integrate conservation and the sustainable use of flora and fauna, with a close association with actions of knowledge transfer to the different spheres of society.
Investigative axes of the proposal
Local strategies and technologies. Identification of plant and animal components used in the local medical systems.
Bioprospecting and Conservation opportunities
Priority plants and in the study by disease/body system.
Popular pharmacopoeia / Support for integrated and systematic actions of the scientific community.
MAIN LINES OF RESEARCH
Ecological and evolutionary bases of relationships between individuals and nature - Applications of ecological and evolutionary theories and models in the study of relationships between individuals and nature, such as optimization theories and plant and animal domestication processes. This line of research considers ecology and evolution as modulating forces that can explain how individuals relate to natural resources and involves studies of the incipient domestication of native plants, agrobiodiversity, domestication and transformation of the natural landscapes, and evolution of knowledge systems.
Conservation and management of fauna and flora in tropical regions - Application of the principles, theories and methods of population biology, population genetics and community structures for tropical biodiversity management. This research includes studies that involve the characterization of biodiversity and threats to its conservation and that are focused on the comprehension of ecological processes, while considering the human variable.
Cognitive systems and the use of natural resources - Study of different forms of appropriation of natural resources, starting from the characterization of social-ecological systems to the application for the management, conservation and bioprospecting of sociobiodiversity. This line of research consists not only of the analysis, description and interpretation of systems of classification and the perception of nature but also includes different models of transmission and variation of the local ecological knowledge. In addition, one strong component of this line of research is the bioprospecting of natural resources (fungi, plants, and animals) based on traditional knowledge, which respects all legal aspects required in this type of research.