Challenges and Opportunities of Integrating Local Knowledge into Environmental Management

TitleChallenges and Opportunities of Integrating Local Knowledge into Environmental Management
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsLoftus, Anne-Claire, and Brandon P. Anthony
Book TitlePrinciples of Environmental Policy: Local, European and Global Perspectives
PublisherPskov State University
Place of PublicationPskov
ISBN Number978-5-91116-761-5
Publisher link

A popular Christmas pastime for many 19th century North America hunters was a competition in which the hunter who shot the most birds and small mammals was declared the winner. The Audubon Society turned this tradition on its head and in 1900 organised the first bird census undertaken by laypersons which has come to be known as the Christmas Bird Count. The Christmas Bird Count is one of the earliest examples of an organised effort to gather and make use of local knowledge held by individuals outside of the research community. Such flora and fauna monitoring programmes have increased in popularity, as has academic interest in the value of local knowledge for natural resource management. Growing interest in local knowledge is in many ways linked to increased awareness of the shortcomings of scientific knowledge in explaining and solving environmental problems. There is however a dichotomy between the theoretical benefits of local knowledge use and integration into management and the actual practice linked to local knowledge capture. Indeed, most local knowledge capture takes place as part of “citizen science” projects, where laypersons gather data as part of studies designed, analysed and used by researchers. While such projects have undeniable benefits, not only in terms of data gathering but also in terms of increased environmental awareness on the part of participants, they do not involve local knowledge holders in all parts of the process, from research design to ultimate decision making. The first section of this chapter will clarify some of the many terms and definitions relating to local knowledge and provide an overview of the main options for local knowledge acquisition and analysis, and will also present the parameters of the example outlined in this chapter. Indeed, this chapter will focus on one example of local knowledge – that held by a group of anglers who have fished the Motueka River catchment in New Zealand for many years. The second section will provide the main outcomes of the investigation into the anglers' local knowledge, both in terms of the investigation on trout decline and sedimentation, and in terms of local knowledge use for catchment management. Finally, we discuss the opportunities and challenges of integrating local knowledge in natural resource management, and aim to draw lessons from the Motueka River catchment to reach broad conclusions about the integration of local knowledge into environmental management, both at the scale of the Motueka River catchment and more generally for other local knowledge use initiatives.

Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy