Local environmental knowledge enhances human adaptive capacity
Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Espagne Victoria.Reyes@uab.cat
(Seminar in English)
Local environmental knowledge refers to the knowledge of natural resources and ecosystems ant the associated management practices, beliefs, and institutions, developed by societies with long histories of using and managing such resources. A study was set to assess whether, across societies and domains of knowledge, people with more local environmental knowledge enjoy better livelihoods. Researchers explored knowledge related to hunting and medicinal plants among the Baka (Congo Basin), the Punan (Borneo), and the Tsimane’ (Amazonia). They found that people with more hunting knowledge obtained higher hunting yields and people with more medicinal plant knowledge were sick less often than other respondents. Data, however, did not show that people with more local environmental knowledge have better nutritional status. This paradox could potentially be explained through the prevalence of sharing, a mechanism that allows resources (i.e., bushmeat) and information (i.e., curing a sick person) to flow from the more knowledgeable to the rest, thus potentially contributing to group-level improvements in nutritional status. Our study suggests that local knowledge systems enhance adaptation by boosting individual ability to obtain food and protect health, benefits that seem to be shared across the group.
Reyes-García, V. et al. Multilevel processes and cultural adaptation: Examples from past and present small-scale societies Ecology and Society. 21 (4):2. 2016 [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol21/iss4/art2/. (Special Issue: Small-Scale Societies and Environmental Transformations: Co-evolutionary Dynamics. Madella, M. and Reyes-García V., ed.
Reyes-García, V. et al.. The adaptive nature of culture. A cross-cultural analysis of the returns of Local Environmental Knowledge in three indigenous societies. Current Anthropology. 57 (6):761-784. 2016.