Biodiv Sci ›› 2009, Vol. 17 ›› Issue (2): 135-142.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2009.08256

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On concepts and protection of traditional knowledge

Dayuan Xue1,2,*(), Luo Guo1   

  1. 1 College of Life and Environmental Science, Minzu University of China, Beijing 100081
    2 Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Nanjing 210042
  • Received:2008-10-07 Accepted:2009-02-19 Online:2009-03-20 Published:2009-03-20
  • Contact: Dayuan Xue


Recently, traditional knowledge (TK) has attracted increasing attention both domestically and internationally, especially the TK associated with conservation and sustainable use of biological resources; this topic has been included in the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international forums. However, no internationally-recognized definition of traditional knowledge exists. Based on analysis of TK concepts in relevant international conventions and instruments, combined with our current research in ethnic areas of China, we propose the following categories for TK associated with biological resources: (1) use of agricultural species and genetic resources; (2) use of medicinal species; (3) technical innovations for use of biological resources and traditional farming and lifestyle practices; (4) traditional cultures and customary laws related to conservation and sustainable use of biological resources; and (5) traditional local marker products. We present suggestions for how to investigate and document TK in order to foster the transfer, development, protection, and popularization of TK. These suggestions will also help to fairly share the benefits produced from the use of TK with indigenous people and local communities.

Key words: traditional knowledge, biological resources, concept, biodiversity, intellectual property, benefit sharing