ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Traditional habitat knowledge is an understudied part of traditional
knowledge. Though the number of studies increased world-wide in the last decade, this
knowledge is still rarely studied in Europe. We document the habitat vocabulary used
by Csango people, and determine features they used to name and describe these categories.Study
area and methods: Csango people live in Gyimes (Carpathians, Romania). The area is
dominated by coniferous forests, hay meadows and pastures. Animal husbandry is the
main source of living. Data on the knowledge of habitat preference of 135 salient
wild plant species were collected (2908 records, 44 interviewees). Data collected
indoors were counterchecked during outdoor interviews and participatory field work.
RESULTS: Csangos used a rich and sophisticated vocabulary to name and describe habitat
categories. They distinguished altogether at least 142--148 habitat types, and named
them by 242 habitat terms. We argue that the method applied and the questions asked
('what kind of place does species X like?') helped the often implicit knowledge of
habitats to be verbalized more efficiently than usual in an interview. Habitat names
were highly lexicalized and most of them were widely shared. The main features were
biotic or abiotic, like land-use, dominant plant species, vegetation structure, successional
stage, disturbance, soil characteristics, hydrological, and geomorphological features.
Csangos often used indicator species (28, mainly herbaceous taxa) in describing habitats
of species. To prevent reduction in the quantity and/or quality of hay, unnecessary
disturbance of grasslands was avoided by the Csangos. This could explain the high
number of habitats (35) distinguished dominantly by the type and severity of disturbance.
Based on the spatial scale and topological inclusiveness of habitat categories we
distinguished macro-, meso-, and microhabitats. CONCLUSIONS: Csango habitat categories
were not organized into a single hierarchy, and the partitioning was multidimensional.
Multidimensional description of habitats, made the nuanced characterization of plant
species' habitats possible by providing innumerable possibilities to combine the most
salient habitat features. We conclude that multidimensionality of landscape partitioning
and the number of dimensions applied in a landscape seem to depend on the number of
key habitat gradients in the given landscape.