Open Access Research

Tertius gaudens”: germplasm exchange networks and agroecological knowledge among home gardeners in the Iberian Peninsula

Victoria Reyes-García12, José Luis Molina2, Laura Calvet-Mir3, Laura Aceituno-Mata4, Juan J Lastra5, Ricardo Ontillera4, Montse Parada6, Manuel Pardo-de-Santayana4, Montse Rigat6, Joan Vallès6 and Teresa Garnatje7*

Author Affiliations

1 ICREA and Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain

2 Departament d’Antropologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain

3 Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellatera, Barcelona, Spain

4 Departamento de Biología (Botánica), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, C/ Darwin 2. Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049, Madrid, Spain

5 Departamento de Biología de Organismos y Sistemas, Universidad de Oviedo. Campus del Cristo, 33071, Oviedo, Spain

6 Laboratori de Botànica, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Joan XXIII, s.n, 08028, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

7 Institut Botànic de Barcelona (IBB-CSIC-ICUB), Passeig del Migdia s.n., Parc de Montjuïc, 08038, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2013, 9:53  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-53

Published: 24 July 2013



The idea that knowledge flows through social networks is implicit in research on traditional knowledge, but researchers have paid scant attention to the role of social networks in shaping its distribution. We bridge those two bodies of research and investigate a) the structure of network of exchange of plant propagation material (germplasm) and b) the relation between a person’s centrality in such network and his/her agroecological knowledge.


We study 10 networks of germplasm exchange (n = 363) in mountain regions of the Iberian Peninsula. Data were collected through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and a survey.


The networks display some structural characteristics (i.e., decentralization, presence of external actors) that could enhance the flow of knowledge and germplasm but also some characteristics that do not favor such flow (i.e., low density and fragmentation). We also find that a measure that captures the number of contacts of an individual in the germplasm exchange network is associated with the person’s agroecological knowledge.


Our findings highlight the importance of social relations in the construction of traditional knowledge.

Home gardens; Ethnobotany; Germplasm exchange; In situ conservation; Landraces; Social network analysis, Spain; Traditional ecological knowledge