Identificando Especies Culturalmente Clave Haga click aquí para la versión en español

Identifying Cultural Keystone Species Click here for English version

Identifier les Espèces Culturelles Clés Cliquez ici pour la version française

Identifizierung kultureller Keystone-Arten Klicken Sie hier für die deutsche Version

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Identifikasi Spesies Kunci Budaya Klik di sini untuk versi Bahasa Indonesia

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Identifying Cultural Keystone Species

Cultural keystone species (CKS) are plant, animal, or fungal species of exceptional significance to a specific ethnic or cultural group. While ethnic or cultural groups value many species, they give exceptional value only to a few CKS [1]. CKS are often prevalent in language, cultural practices (e.g., ceremonies), traditions, diet, medicines, material items, and histories of a community. For example, the white pine (Pinus strobus L.) is a cultural keystone species for the Kitcisakik Algonquin community in Quebec. The tree is prevalent in Kitcisakik legends and myths, it is said to offer protection to people and animals and it is used for material goods and medicines. The disappearance of the white pine would have large material and cultural impacts on the Kitcisakik [2].

We aim to identify the CKS that have already been reported for a wide range of people across the world. To do so, we are opening a short survey directed to researchers and practitioners with a depth understanding of the value of nature for a specific cultural group. Participants are requested to rely on published material or on their expert knowledge 1) to list species culturally important for specific groups, 2) to report on additional contributions to people provided by such species [3], and 3) to provide a reference for the source of information. Information collected through this survey will be the basis for scientific publications highlighting the global spread and contributions of CKS. To acknowledge participants contribution to this survey, we will 1) prepare an annex citing all references compiled through the survey and 2) organize a discussion group with interested participants. Results will also be used to inform global biodiversity conservation strategies through policy briefs that emphasize the need to incorporate cultural considerations in biodiversity management strategies [4,5]. The survey collects anonymous non-personal data on CKS. Responding will take between 5-15 minutes per CKS. By answering the survey, you give consent to the mentioned uses of data and to the transfer and storage of the non-personal information in a server in Europe.

This initiative is part of the Functional Interactions and Biodiversity Targets (FItBiTs) working group of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). The working group explores organisms of key importance for nature’s contributions to people relevant at the large scale and essential for a safe and just future for people and nature. Collaborating institutions include the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain), the Núcleo Diversus on Diversity and Sustainability (Córdoba, Argentina), the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies (University of Zurich, Switzerland), and the Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE, France). For further information, including participating in the discusion group, please contact

The survey is open to all. Please feel free to resend the link to other people who might be interested.


[1] Garibaldi, A., Turner, N.J., 2004. Cultural keystone species: implications for ecological conservation and restoration. Ecol. Soc. 9, 1.

[2] Uprety, Y., Asselin, H., Bergeron, Y., 2013. Cultural importance of white pine (Pinus Strobus l.) to the Kitcisakik Algonquin community of Western Quebec, Canada. Can. J. For. Res. 43, 544–551.

[3] Díaz, S., et al., 2018. Assessing nature’s contributions to people. Science 359 (6373): 270–272.

[4] Coe, M.A., Gaoue, O.G., 2020. Cultural keystone species revisited: are we asking the right questions? J. Ethnobiol. Ethnomed.

[5] Freitas, C.T., et al., 2020. Co‐management of culturally important species: A tool to promote biodiversity conservation and human well‐being. People Nat. 2, 61–81.