Biocultural diversity in farming landscapes of the Global South

Biocultural diversity (BCD), that is the diversity of life in all its manifestations, is declining at an unprecedented speed. Alarmingly, this loss goes hand in hand with many biophysical and socio- economic changes that are unsustainable, and there is an urgent need to understand and promote transformative pathways towards sustainability. While previous studies on biocultural diversity have mainly focused on the inventory and conservation of existing diversity, this project will assess how BCD is linked to indicators of sustainability and how it can contribute to more sustainable futures.

To that end, we will first review the existing literature on the topic and reflect on the concept and its links with sustainability. Second, we will empirically assess how BCD is linked to indicators of sustainability in a case study in Bolivia and which governance mechanisms it benefits from. This will be realized through inter- and transdisciplinary research that takes into account aspects related to environmental justice, wellbeing and gender in the case study area. Third, we will assess how BCD can contribute to sustainability in other farming landscapes of the Global South through a set of stakeholder workshops. The project will generate a holistic understanding of how biocultural diversity can contribute to sustainability. The findings of the study will be widely communicated to local communities, academia and national and international stakeholders.

Bolivian landscape ©Jan Hanspach
In the field ©Jan Hanspach
Bolivian village ©Jan Hanspach


Project duration: 5 years
Funding: funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF)

International Partners

Fundacion Tierra

TIERRA is a Bolivian non-governmental organization dedicated to the search for ideas that contribute to the sustainable rural development of indigenous and peasant communities. Its main task is to promote the equitable distribution and use of natural resources. To this end, TIERRA’s mode of working is action research in order to establish a broad community of agricultural and rural researchers, promoters of rural development, community facilitators, activists and community leaders. TIERRA also supports the development of local capacities for the participation of indigenous, native and peasant organizations in decision-making processes. We will conduct field research in Bolivia in collaboration with TIERRA.


The Heinrich Böll Foundation is a political forum for green ideas and projects and an international network with offices in 30 countries. One of the main themes of the foundation is how to achieve sustainability in farming landscapes. The collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation includes interactions with the international offices, the joint publication of project results and the organisation of a panel discussion in Germany.

Bioversity International

Bioversity International is a global research-for-development organization with the vision to harness agrobiodiversity in order to nourish people and sustain the planet. Bioversity International is part of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and closely collaborates with local actors in 35 countries. Together with Bioversity we will develop and implement the global comparative study on how biocultural diversity contributes to sustainability across a range of different farming landscapes in the Global South.

Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS)

PECS is a Future Earth Global Research Project and is hosted and funded by the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC). PECS aims to reveal general principles for sustainably managing social-ecological systems through research across place-based, long-term social-ecological case studies. Our project has entered PECS as an in-depth case study, thus facilitating international research across disciplines and promoting holistic approaches towards sustainability.

BioKultDiv as PECS Case Study

Team and Contact

Project Leader

  • Dr. Jan Hanspach

PostDoc and Coordinator of field work in Bolivia

  • Dr. Isabel Díaz Reviriego

PhD Students

  • Camila Benavides Frias
  • Stefan Ortiz Przychodzka

Project Coordinator

  • Annika Drews-Shambroom

Publications and Downloads


Hanspach (2020): Book Review: UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: Supporting Biocultural Diversity, Sustainability and Society, Society & Natural Resources.
Hanspach et al. (2020): Biocultural approaches to sustainability: A systematic review of the scientific literature, People and Nature, 1-17.
Hanspach et al. (2021): Crisis-induced disruptions in place-based social-ecological research ‐ an opportunity for redirection. GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, 30, 72–76.

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