Abstract

Thanks to its geographic location between two bioclimatic belts (arid and Saharan) and the ancestral nomadic roots of its inhabitants, the sector of Ouled Dabbeb (Southern Tunisia) represents a rich source of plant biodiversity and wide ranging of ethnobotanical knowledge. This work aims to (1) explore and compile the unique diversity of floristic and ethnobotanical information on different folk use of plants in this sector and (2) provide a novel insight into the degree of knowledge transmission between the current population and their semi-nomadic forefathers. Ethnobotanical interviews and vegetation inventories were undertaken during 2014–2019. Thirty informants aged from 27 to 84 were interviewed. The ethnobotanical study revealed that the local community of Ouled Dabbeb perceived the use of 70 plant species belonging to 59 genera from 31 families for therapeutic (83%), food (49%), domestic (15%), ethnoveterinary (12%), cosmetic (5%), and ritual purposes (3%). Moreover, they were knowledgeable about the toxicity of eight taxa. Nearly 73% of reported ethnospecies were freely gathered from the wild. The most commonly used plant parts were leaves (41%) followed by flowers and inflorescence (16%). We reported the use and collection of non-renewable parts (underground storage organs and roots) for 20 ethnospecies. Interestingly, a comparison with the available literature in Tunisia and neighboring countries reveals 13 new useful plants as well as 17 plants with new uses and demonstrates an important reservoir of traditional ethnobotanical heritage that is still sustained by respondents stemming from the semi-nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors (74% of cited taxa). These data could set a basis for further phytochemical and pharmacological research and conservative approach of the most relevant plant species including endemic overused and endangered taxa.

Highlights

  • Introduction(analysis of more than 100,000 publications) has underlined that global research is focused more on bioprospection rather than cultivation or domestication of plants with known biological potential [4]

  • Since times immemorial, wild, naturalized, or non-cultivated plants provide a “green social security” to hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, namely in the form of low-cost building materials, fuel, food supplements, herbal medicines (80% of people in the world [1]), basketry containers for storage, processing or preparation of food crops, or as a source of income [2,3].A recent bibliometric study of all works listed in the Scopus database until 2019(analysis of more than 100,000 publications) has underlined that global research is focused more on bioprospection rather than cultivation or domestication of plants with known biological potential [4]

  • Odoratissimum, and R. eriocalyx, it is suggested to launch specific actions to verify if they are Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) and which is their genetic affinity with the respective parental species [72]

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Summary

Introduction

(analysis of more than 100,000 publications) has underlined that global research is focused more on bioprospection rather than cultivation or domestication of plants with known biological potential [4]. This could pose a threat to the future of these natural resources. Tunisian flora is one of the richest and most diverse of the southern Mediterranean with around 2700 taxa [8,9] lodging botanical species of higher interest.

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