We cherish biocultural diversity in extraordinary places. Biocultural diversity refers to tangled-up, complex diversity that includes both cultural diversity—think of indigenous or endangered languages, rare local varieties of crops, local names, local medical practices, or landscape rituals—and the more familiar biological diversity, with mosses and monkeys and microbes and humans all fermenting together. Research over the past five decades in disciplines such as ethnobiology and conservation social science has shown that biodiversity depends on cultural diversity, and cultural diversity depends on biological diversity. The exact relationships ad causal chains differ from place to place. This kind of intimately tangled and complex diversity is most powerful, rich and curious in extraordinary places. By this we mean everything from sacred mountains and lakes (think of Mount Kailash, Lake Rewalsar, or Schiehallion) through culturally signficant karst landscapes (Guizhou or Java) to historically deep landscapes that focus regional or national identity, such as Yosemite or the Inca Trail. These are anthropogenic landscapes: multiple communities share, negotiate and create their cultural and biological richness. Hence it is impossible to steward the biological diversity of such places without celebrating the societies that create it—and it is equally impossible to understand or foster their cultural diversity without a clear recognition of the biological diversity that quickens it.
Our consultancy work for governments, funders and communities tends to fall into three categories: stewarding places, working with communities, and ecotourism development. We discuss the challenge of managing biocultural diversity here.