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Diana Quiroz

Dr. D. (Diana) Quiroz, Research fellow - Biodiversity Dynamics


Email: diana.quiroz@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)6 45 98 76 81
Room number: 1029, Generaal Foulkesweg 37, Wageningen

I had the privilege of growing up in a country rich in cultural and biological diversity: Mexico. By the time I was done with highschool and had to decide what to do in life, understanding and preserving nature and culture had become my passion. My passion eventually became my work as well. 


I hold a B.Sc degree in Environmental and Resource Management from Brandenburg University and a M.Sc. degree in Ecological Agriculture from the University of Kassel, in Germany. My professional and academic experiences comprehend a wide range of approaches and biocultural settings. I have worked in conservation and development projects tackling the utilization of non-timber forest products, rangeland management, and agriculture in Yemen and Liberia from 2008 to 2010. My previous research experience includes monitoring bird populations in Khao Luang National Park, southern Thailand. I have also conducted a systematic review of the agro-pastoral land use systems in the Hawf Protected Area, Yemen. The work that I currently do is a study with a strong component of ethnobotany and traditional natural resource appropriation (particularly plants) in Benin and Gabon.


Research interest



ecological knowledge, conservation, natural resource management, traditional spiritual values, west-africa, ethnobotany

Current research topics

Plants used in traditional spiritual practices in Benin and Gabon 

Commonly, scientists tend to group African traditional spiritual values and the rites that are related to their practice into the “obscure” and metaphysical science. This attitude does not only overlook an important aspect of societal life in Africa, but fails to acknowledge the interrelatedness of traditional religious beliefs to the concepts of health, the human psyche, and the natural environment. Because plants do not only play an overriding role in African traditional medicine but also in spiritual practices, understanding their use in this context poses a great potential to contribute to an improved plant resource management and, ultimately, conservation.

In my work, I document the use of plants for traditional spiritual practices of the Ewe-Fon in Benin and the Bantu-Kikongo in Gabon and, where possible, I try to provide scientific explanations for them. Although not an ancestral tribal group of enslaved Africans, the plant use of the Babongo of Gabon is also be studied as their belief-system and the associated plant use has evolved in close coexistence with Bantu-Kikongo tribes. Of special interest are the methods used for the harvesting and preparation of plants used by all of these groups, as well as their domestication and threat status; the crops grown for the veneration of their gods and spirits; and the ecological knowledge embedded in their spiritual beliefs.

Fieldwork including quantitative market surveys, plant collection and herbarium identification, cultural domain analyses, participant observations, and interviews have been carried out for six months in each of these two countries. The results obtained are presented with the ntention to inform decisions pertaining culturally appropriate development interventions and, eventually, to contribute to the conservation of valuable medicinal plant species and their ecosystems.

Traditional healer pays his respect to the iroko tree (Milicia excelsa), the king of the forest, before collecting medicinal plants in a sacred forest in Porto Novo, Benin.

Statues of the twins, a pair of vodoun spirits, surrounded by fruits and seeds of endangered species such as Caesalpinia bonduc, Tetrapleura tetraptera, and Afzelia africana. Other species not seen in the picture include Schrebera arborea, Ensette livinsgtonianum, and Xylopia aethiopica. They are sold at almost every market in Benin, as they are common ingredients in medicinal plant preparations and rituals. These plants are often found cultivated in home gardens of traditional health practitioners and soothsayers.





Plant families of the tropics.

Swier, Jorik. 2012. Sustainability of medicinal plant trade in southern Benin. An analysis of the sustainable harvest and trade of medicinal and magical barks, woods and roots in southern Benin. Minor thesis MSc Plant Biotechnology, Wageningen University.

Briere, Solene. 2012. Cultivation of medicinal, ritual and magic plants in Southern Benin. Internship report, Wageningen University.

Boogmans, Britt. 2013. Sustainability of the commercial trade of non-woody plant parts in Gabon. Minor thesis BSc Biology, Leiden University.

Available student projects


Articles in refereed SCI journals

Towns, A. M., D. Quiroz, L. Guinée, H. de Boer, T. van Andel. 2014. Volume, value and floristic diversity of Gabon's medicinal plant markets. Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Schlecht, E., L. G. Hernández-Zaballos, D. Quiroz, P. Scholte, A. Buerkert. 2014. Traditional land use and reconsideration of environmental zoning in the Hawf Protected Area, Yemen. Journal of Arid Environments 109: 92-102. 

Quiroz, D., A. M. Towns, S. I. Legba, J. Swier, S. Brière, M. S. M. Sosef, T. van Andel. 2014. Quantifying the domestic market in herbal medicine in Benin, West Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 151: 1100-1108

Articles in refereed non-SCI journals

Porter, R. F., Quiroz, D2010. Social behaviour of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). British Birds 131: 61-64.
Read the article


Quiroz, D. 2008. Assessing the constrains and potentials to environmental protection in South-East Yemen. M.Sc. Thesis. University of Kassel, Germany.

Technical reports

Quiroz, D., A. M.Towns and T. van Andel, 2014. Ethnobotany of Gabon. Naturalis Research and Education Report 2009-2012, p. 68-69

Quiroz, D. 2012. Les connaissances écologiques et l'utilisation et la gestion des plantes au sein des croyances religieuses traditionnelles des groupes ethniques ancestrales des esclaves africains. Études du Bénin et du Gabon. Rapport Final pour les Études Scientifiques sur le Territoire du Gabon. Agence National des Parcs Nationaux du Gabon/ Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique.
Read the article

Quiroz, D. 2008. Implementation of a working programme on grazing (WPG) on Socotra. Summary report of project activities sumbitted to the Socotra Conservation and Development Programme and the Environmental Protection Authority of the Republic of Yemen.

Quiroz, D., Hernandez-Zaballos, L. G. 2007. The Hawf Protected Area: Status-quo of Agro-pastoral Land Use Systems. Summary report of research activities and findings submitted to the Environmental Protection Authority of the Republic of Yemen. 

Articles in books

Quiroz, D. 2012. Benin. The role of spiritual values. In: M. Brouwer (ed.) The Ecosystem Promise. MB Publishers, Pp. 60-61.
Read the article

Published abstracts of work presented at scientific meetings

Quiroz, D., Andel, T. R. van. 2014. Traditional spiritual practices: untapped potential in conservation planning. 6th Meeting of the African Asociation for the Study of Reliion: Religion, Ecology, and the Environment in Africa and the African Diaspora.. University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa (Oral presentation)

Quiroz, D., Andel, T. R. van. 2014. Moving beyond the sacred: approaching traditional spiritual values to inform plan conservation planning. Joint meeting of the Society of Economic Botany and the Society of Ethnobiology. Cherokee, North Carolina, USA (Oral presentation).

Quiroz, D., Andel, T. R. van, Towns, A., Swier, J., Brière, S., Legba, I. 2013.  Quantifying the Domestic Market in Herbal Medicine in Benin, West Africa. Annual Meeting of the Society of Economic Botany. Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK (Oral presentation). http://prezi.com/efv5ie1tvivu/seb-2013-diana-quiroz/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Quiroz, D., Towns, A. 2011. Plants used in magico-religious practices, women's health, and childcare in Bénin and Gabon. Troisième Colloque des Sciences, Cultures et Technologies de l'Université d'Abomey-Calavi. Akassato, Bénin. (Oral presentation with Alexandra Towns)

Quiroz, D 2010. Assessing the Constraints to Environmental Protection in South-East Arabia: A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Agro-pastoral Land Use Systems in the Hawf Protected Area, Yemen. World Congress for Middle-Eastern Studies. Barcelona, Catalunya. (Oral presentation)  http://wocmes.iemed.org/uploads/20100709/wocmes2010.pdf

Quiroz, D., Scholte, P., Al-Okaishi, A., Schlecht, E., Buerkert, A. 2008.  Constraints and Potentials for Environmental Protection in the Afro-Pastoral Land Use Systems of the Hawf Protected Area, Yemen. Tropentag. (Poster) http://www.tropentag.de/2008/proceedings/proceedings.pdf 

Other presentations 

Quiroz, D. 2008. Sin maíz no hay país (Ohne Mais gibt's kein Land mehr): ein Vortrag über die historische, politische, ökonomische, und kulturelle Rolle des Mais in Mexiko. Länderabend organiziert durch die ESG, Witzenhausen.  http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/dianabanana-77902-Presentation-ESG-es-Education-ppt-powerpoint/ 

Quiroz, D., Hernandez-Zaballos, L. G. 2007. The Hawf Protected Area: Status-quo of Agro-pastoral Land Use Systems. Report presented to the Environmental Protection Authority of the Republic of Yemen. Sana'a and Hadibo, Yemen.