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Useful Plants of Ecuador is a compendium of local knowledge of plants found in the diverse ecological regions of Ecuador, a country known for its unrivalled diversity of plant species, as well as for its numerous cultural groups. As such, it places itself in an important position in the crisis of tropical forests and also in a cultural crisis of the loss of indigenous knowledge. Over the last 30 years the Herbarium of the "Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador", Quito (QCA), has been a depository for plant specimens, collected for a variety of purposes.
The editors of Useful Plants of Ecuador have painstakingly sifted through the entire collection, extracted the data, and presented it in a systematic and organized manner. The information is made available in an easy to use format accessible to a much larger audience. Furthermore, the information presented has been classified into a system of categories of plant uses.
Useful Plants of Ecuador is not an ethnobotanical study in itself, but rather a tool for researchers who want to know more about the uses of plants in Ecuador. It also reflects the tremendous diversity of the use of plants in this county. The message of Useful Plants of Ecuador is one of conservation. The forest and natural vegetation of Ecuador are disappearing at an alarming rate, giving place to much less diverse cattle fields and agricultural lands. Although the country obviously depends on these economic activities, it is often forgotten that the forests and other vegetation types house innumerable plant species that are of immense importance to local cultural groups and that also represent economic potential. Useful Plants of Ecuador documents these alternatives and hopefully will inspire further research into the local knowledge of the plant species of Ecuador.