Biodiv Sci ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (3): 22524.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022524

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Traditional biodiversity knowledge in Bombax ceiba cultures: Inheritance and utilization

Wenqian Xiang1,2, Wenjuan Wang1,2,*(), Mingxun Ren1,2,*()   

  1. 1 Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Genetics and Germplasm Innovation of Tropical Special Forest Trees and Ornamental Plants, Hainan University, Haikou 570228
    2 Center for Terrestrial Biodiversity of the South China Sea, Hainan University, Haikou 570228
  • Received:2022-09-13 Accepted:2022-11-06 Online:2023-03-20 Published:2022-12-30
  • Contact: Wenjuan Wang,Mingxun Ren


Background & Aims: Traditional cultures typically harbor some knowledge and skills on sustainably using and protecting natural resources, which is helpful in modern biodiversity conservation and ecological civilization construction. Bombax ceiba is a common tall tree in tropical and subtropical regions. The tall and straight trunk, big, red flowers, and the fruit fiber of B. caiba that can be spun make people know and use B. ceiba for a long time, has caused the nearby civilizations to learn how to ultilize the tree, and form a rich culture surrounding the tree.

Progress: In Central America and Australia, B. ceiba is mainly used for canoes and carving, while in Asia this unusual tree is of much more importance in utilizations and has become ‘Cultural Keystone Species’ in India, Vietnam, Myanmar and South China, and as a consequence, more ancient trees (> 100 years) of B. ceiba can be found in Asia than other regions. In China, B. ceiba cultures have a long history and can be traced back to Xia and Shang Dynasty since B. ceiba characters is found in SHAN HAI JING and the Sanxingdui Ruins. Due to its high economical use and cultural importance, B. ceiba is always the dominant tree in ‘Fengshui forest’ near villages and farmlands, with some rare species and native vegetation. In Vietnam, Bangladesh, and South China where rice is widely planted long time ago, many B. ceiba trees are kept in the rice fields and formed a special type of agroforestry system, i.e. kapok-rice agroforestry system. Resource recycling ideas and biodiversity conservation thoughts can be found within the traditional farming practices in this system, which is promising for applying China’s important agricultural cultural heritage to modern day conservation methods, although the underlying ecological mechanism is in need of further illumination.

Prospects: It is the important to explore the ecological basis of Bombax cultures and their associated biodiversity knowledge with modernized practices, with an aim to facilitate tropical special high-efficiency agriculture, rural vitalization, and ecological civilization.

Key words: plant culture, biocultural diversity, ethnobotany, ecological civilization