Yi Ethnomycology: Wild Mushroom Knowledge and Use in Yunnan, China

Local ethnobiological knowledge offers critical insights into ecological processes, species diversity, and abundance, as well as changes in environmental conditions. Although ethnomycological knowledge remains understudied compared to local knowledge about plants and animals, wild fungi are important components of healthy, functioning ecosystems. Wild fungi are also integral to many social and economic systems. Yunnan Province, China, is home to both a wide diversity of wild edible mushrooms and extensive human-fungi relationships. Understanding local ecological and mycological knowledge is critical for conserving ecological systems and promoting sustainable livelihoods. This study investigates indigenous Yi ethnomycological knowledge in four communities in Nanhua County using both interviews and harvesting observations. The comparative merits and limitations of each method are assessed. Around 90 unique, named folk species were reported or observed in the study communities, with 54 species reported multiple times. Local mushroom names encode information about local ecology, species morphology, and abstract metaphorical ideas. In addition, harvesters variably referred to mushrooms in Yi, Mandarin, or with general descriptive categories, suggesting a link between species use, value, and naming conventions. This study found that directly observing mushroom harvests captured more detailed knowledge compared to recall-based interviews, including both a greater number of species and a more nuanced, multi-leveled taxonomic system. However, interviews revealed the cultural salience, economic values, and culinary preferences for many local mushroom species. These results highlight the importance of mixed-methods approaches to ethnoecological knowledge, as both recall and observational data may lead to different conclusions about local species abundance and diversity.
Authors: Brown, M.
Subjects: ethnobiology, ecology, fungi, livelihoods
Publication type: Article
Source: Journal of Ethnobiology 39: 131-157
Year: 20192019
ISSN: 0278-0771

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