Bridging indigenous and scientific knowledge

J. Mistry, A. Berardi
2016 Science  
Indigenous land use practices have a fundamental role to play in controlling deforestation and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Satellite imagery suggests that indigenous lands contribute substantially to maintaining carbon stocks and enhancing biodiversity relative to adjoining territory (1). Many of these sustainable land use practices are born, developed, and successfully implemented by the community without major influence from external stakeholders (2). A prerequisite for such community
more » ... wned solutions is indigenous knowledge, which is local and context specific, transmitted orally or through imitation and demonstration, adaptive to changing environments, collectivized through a shared social memory, and situated within numerous interlinked facets of people's lives (3). Such local ecological knowledge is increasingly important given the growing global challenges of ecosystem degradation and climate change (4). The insights that can be gained from local indigenous knowledge are illustrated by a recent study by Klein et al. (5). The authors show that local knowledge of climate and ecological change supports the hypothesis of delayed summers on the Tibetan Plateau. This question has been vigorously debated as a result of contrasting scientific data. Interviews with Tibetan pastoralists herding livestock on a daily basis and at higher elevations found noticeable changes in seasonality, higher snowlines, and long-term changes in animal numbers, which suggested a regional warming trend underlying delayed phenological trends. This was supported by pastoralists' perceived delays in the start of summer over multi decade time scales, thereby refuting the shorter-term trends revealed by normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) measurements and reinforcing long-term remote sensing records. Studies with the Inuit of the Arctic region also show that local ecological knowledge can reveal unexpected outcomes (6). For example, Idrobo and Berkes have shown that the Pangnirtung Inuit of southern Baffin Island use experiential information, reflections, variations in knowledge, and sensemaking to generate new understandings about the Greenland shark and its role in the Arctic marine environment (7). This includes knowledge about shark occurrence, habitat, and feeding behavior that is more detailed than the current scientific understanding of shark ecology. These studies show that when indigenous people seek to adapt to novel challenges such as climate change, they do not seek solutions aimed at adapting to climate change alone, but instead look for holistic solutions to increase their resilience to a wide range of shocks and stresses from various sources, some of which may have similar, or greater, negative consequences for their communities.
doi:10.1126/science.aaf1160 pmid:27284180 fatcat:smnyms4gebhm7p2d4pf6j5ongi