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The West Indies are considered one of the top five biodiversity hotspots on the planet, which means they encompass a great diversity of endemic taxa, unique habitats, and vulnerable ecosystems. These hyper-diverse ecosystems have driven the attention of botanical explorers, naturalists, and researchers from all around the world, resulting in historical prolific expeditions, thousands of collections and publications focused on describing the plant diversity in the region. However, botanical sciences in the Caribbean islands have deep roots in colonialism, and there often is a marked disconnect between those actually carrying out the research and the incorporation of local scientists and stakeholders, such as the general public and students being trained in the botanical sciences. Instead, we often find that resulting publications and plant collections have been based on persistent colonial practices and methodologies that exclude local scientists, silently promoting a lack of development and diversity in the sciences in the very countries where the work is carried out, a loss of traditional knowledge, as well as difficult access to information of our genetic resources. The present study aims to assess the incidence of ongoing colonial practices in the botanical sciences, along with promoting decolonization at different scales. By reviewing the literature in the plant sciences, herbarium collections (especially of type specimens), conservation projects, and botanical research approaches/topics on Hispaniolan endemic plants, we present a compilation of historical and ongoing colonial practices and methods that need to be revised and/or changed. Our work underscores the fact that decolonizing science is a complex process that starts with recognizing these practices, while enabling pertinent and responsible conversations, not with the purpose of passing blame, but by engaging stakeholders to seek opportunities and propose solutions for these deeply engrained practices.

Keywords:

Caribbean Islands, Colonization, Botany, Dominican Republic, Haiti

Yuley Encarnacion Pineyro

Presentation within symposium:

S-46 Noah´s Arcs of the Anthropocene: the role of Botanic Gardens in Caribbean plant conservation

Decolonizing botanical sciences in the West Indies: Hispaniola case

-Review-