New paper on ethnobotany of Pantelleria Island

Check out our new publication by Quave & Saitta on the ethnobotany of Pantelleria Island in Economic Botany: “Forty-five years later: The shifting dynamic of traditional ecological knowledge on Pantelleria Island, Italy



In 1969, Galt and Galt conducted an ethnobotanical survey in the community of Khamma on the volcanic island of Pantelleria, Italy. Since then, a number of botanical studies concerning the local wild flora and cultivation of the zibibbo grape and capers have been conducted, but none have investigated traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) regarding the use of wild plants and fungi. We documented the current TEK and practices concerning wild plants and fungi on the island, focusing on uses related to food and medicine with 42 in-depth interviews in six communities in June 2014. Our aim was to examine shifts in TEK, represented in terms of loss or gain of specific species uses, in comparison to the 1969 study. All interviews were conducted in person in Italian with prior informed consent. We employed two primary means of eliciting responses concerning traditional practices; informants were asked to: 1) free-list the most commonly used plants for wild foods, general medicine, and skin remedies; and 2) view and discuss a booklet composed of photos of species reported in the Galt and Galt study. In total, 86 botanical and 19 fungal species representing 53 families were cited. While many plant-based traditions have disappeared from daily practice, especially those related to traditional fishing and hunting, they remain in the memories of the eldest subset of the population. For example, one of the most pervasive species in the landscape, Opuntia ficus-indica, has current day uses that persist as a food source, but its past applications were much more diverse, and included manipulation into hunting snares for birds. Other predominant flora included a number of Euphorbia spp., whose toxic latex was regularly used as a fish poison. Fungi, on the other hand, nowadays represent an important source of wild food. In conclusion, we documented a decline in knowledge and practice of TEK related to ritual healing, livestock rearing, hunting and fishing practices and an increase in TEK concerning newly introduced edible fungi.