Cultural heritage and traditions threatened by land use changes

Multi-displinary study places the pitaya cactus at the center of culture and traditions of the Yoreme people in Northwestern Mexico

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 161 species occurrences
Pitaya divide
Contrasting lines between fields of S. thurberi and grain fields. Photo from article used with permission from author.

Often connected with local flora and fauna, cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples are affected by land use changes associated with rapidly altering globalized societies. In Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico–ancestral territory of the Yoreme people–mechanized, large-scale farming co-exists with traditional practices and knowledge, exemplified by the organ pipe cactus– also known as the pitaya (Stenocereus thurberi).

In this paper, authors carried out interviews with harvesters and sellers of pitaya products, showing usage in a variety of goods from marmalade and dried fruit rolls to flavoured water and sorbet, providing economic benefits to community members while preserving Yoreme heritage.

Unfortunately, based on vegetation surveys and GBIF-mediated occurrences, the authors showed that the distribution of pitaya–particularly in the Yoreme territory–converged with the the highest rates of land conversion to modern agriculture, effectively leading to wildland loss of more than two and a half per cent per year. If allowed to continue at current rates, pitaya habitat shrinking presents a major threat to the cultural practices and livelihoods of the Yoreme.

Link to original article

Semotiuk AJ, Colunga-GarcíaMarín P, Valenzuela Maldonado D and Ezcurra E (2017) Pillar of strength: Columnar cactus as a key factor in Yoreme heritage and wildland preservation. Ambio. Springer Nature 47(1): 86–96. Available at: