Sustainability of medicinal plants gathering in Spain: Cultural importance, availability, and conservation status

ID: 613 / 336

Category: Abstract

Track: Pending

Proposed Symposium Title: Sustainability of medicinal plants gathering in Spain: Cultural importance, availability, and conservation status


Jimena Mateo-Martín1, Guillermo Benítez2, Airy Gras3, María Molina4, Victoria Reyes-García5, 6, Javier Tardío4, Alonso Verde7, Manuel Pardo-de-Santayana1

Affiliations: 1 Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, España. 2 Universidad de Granada, Granada, España. 3 Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, España 4 Instituto Madrileño de Investigación y Desarrollo Rural, Agrario y Alimentario (IMIDRA), Madrid, España. 5 Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Barcelona, España. 6 Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, España. 7 Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Albacete, España.


Around 7% of the 350,000 vascular plants species of the world are used, mainly as medicines (25,791) (RBG Kew, 2020). The consumption and harvesting of wild medicinal plants are increasing globally, both for self-treatment and for trading. This growing demand is leading to unmonitored commercial gathering and could result in the over-harvest of some species. However, the consequences of harvesting on the conservation status of medicinal wild plants are still barely explored.

We have examined the relationship between a species' cultural importance (CI), availability, conservation status, and legal protection, to understand how gathering affects their sustainability. Spain is an ideal case study for this approach because of its rich biological and cultural diversity, which have led to a wealth of traditional knowledge about these plants. We found 1,376 species of medicinal plants with known applications in Spain, which accounts for over a quarter (22%) of the nation's total native vascular flora (16% of which is endemic). There was a positive correlation between species' CI and their abundance (r = 0.466) and area of occupancy (r = 0.495). Only 6% of the traditionally utilized wild medicinal plants in Spain are considered as endangered, and again, just 6% are totally or substantially subject to protection measures.

In Spain, the majority of the species used for self-treatment are widespread, easily available, and not threatened. Our results indicate that domestic medicinal plant use does not lead to overexploitation and that traditional knowledge systems of management might safeguard the sustainability of the species. However, this may not be the case for wild species that are gathered for their commercialization.

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: biocultural conservation, ecosystem services, natural resources, pharmaceutical ethnobotany, Spain, wild plants gathering