Environmental Skeptics and Critics, 2013, 2(1): 1-19
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Revisiting plant conservation on wooded shrines by a transversal approach: "Core" vs. "satellite" species and anthropological knowledge in Bwaba land, Burkina Faso

Anne Fournier1, Lassina Sanou 1,2
1IRD, UMR Paloc (MNHN/IRD), 57 rue Cuvier, CP 26, 75231 Paris cedex 05, France
2CNSF, Kaya Road, 01 BP 2682 Ouagadougou 01, Burkina Faso

Received 8 November 2012;Accepted 10 December 2012;Published online 1 March 2013

Studies on plant conservation in sacred groves provide mixed results, with some showing their effectiveness while others do not. We argue that beyond the variety of field cases, studies usually suffer from overrating rare species and insufficient consideration of societal data. The sacred sites of Bondoukuy department in Bwaba cultural area (Burkina Faso) were geo-referenced and measured; the most abundant ligneous species were listed and their abundance recorded. Their conservation status and dynamics were assessed based on the core vs. satellite species model of Hanski. Data interpretations relied on the phytogeographical affinities of abundant species and on anthropological knowledge of the Bwaba society.
    The vast majority of shrines were less than 1 ha, located in or near villages in specific landscape features, and covered with trees. The most abundant species of shrines belonged mostly to local phytochories, but were subject to rather high anthropisation. The results support the concept that wooded shrines preserve local biodiversity, but indicate threats from an invasive alien species. The location and condition of shrines appeared to be constitutive features: the Bwaba system of thought involves a series of sacred sites (with and without trees) located in remarkable features of the landscape, and their way of life has resulted in the proximity of these sites to the villages. The beliefs that promote plant cover conservation do so only to a certain extent and regardless of the species content, which raises the concern that alien species may upset the established communities. These beliefs have led the Bwaba to choose the most humid environments in which to set up their wooded shrines, which is interesting from a conservation perspective. The study advocates for a better consideration of social data to identify the key elements of the dynamics of the vegetation of sacred groves.

Keywords sacred woods;plant biodiversity conservation;core species;savannah vegetation;invasive species;anthropological knowledge.

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