XXI. Operationalizing Biocultural Indicators of Well-Being Across Scales

Session Date and Time: 
Friday, 10 May 2019 - 1:30pm to 2:30pm
Geography 212
Session Organizer(s): 
Eleanor Sterling
- sterling@amnh.org
Pua'ala Pascua
- ppascua@amnh.org
Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares
- alvaro.fernandez-llamazares@helsinki.fi

Collaboration between local and international conservation initiatives is imperative as it can synergize cross-scale planning and evidence-based implementation for sustainability. Yet across the globe, Indigenous Peoples and other place-based, local communities are often subjected to global goals, national policies, and regional commitments that are externally codified and include pre-determined monitoring and reporting indicators.  This can result in indicators that may not effectively support communities in realizing their self-determined vision. In addition, indicators that lack community-level input may also discount, misrepresent or undermine the knowledge systems, worldviews and cultural values that underpin the connections between people and place.

We argue that a promising solution to this challenge is to develop monitoring and reporting indicators using a biocultural approach, one that begins with an understanding of locally grounded priorities and needs that inform community interactions with, and management of, nature. Using participatory methods to identify indicators supports the identification of metrics that are culturally appropriate, that are monitored in a way that is coordinated with and respects peoples’ livelihood strategies and time limitations, and that provide information that is relevant for local community decision-making. Working alongside community members to reflect on and choose indicators is an essential part of the process, supporting community empowerment and ultimately influencing improved environmental and social outcomes of conservation initiatives.

We propose to engage a small panel of practitioners and ethnobiologists from across the globe who are actively using well-being or other biocultural-oriented monitoring and reporting indicators for their place-based initiatives. We will ask invited practitioners to describe their place-based initiative’s indicator set and/or framework, in particular, the context in which they were used and/or process they fed into, any helpful tools/resources encountered along the way, and based on these experiences, recommendations for future conservation planning efforts that are attuned to local needs/priorities and global goals.

Time Abstract
, Eleanor - American Museum of Natural History
, Joe - American Museum of Natural History

Biocultural approaches are increasingly important in global resource management. In this talk, we present a case study from Solomon Islands, where we have used a biocultural approach to assess and support place-based resource management goals. Biocultural approaches are highly relevant in Solomon Islands, where resource management is characterized by diversity, customary tenure, and the central role of local and indigenous rights holders. We worked at four sites in Western Province, and began by exploring local needs and priorities using arts-based approaches. We then collaboratively developed localized indicators of success, assessed indicator baselines, and catalysed management actions, including development of ethnobotanical resources. While there have been several challenges, this approach has fostered discussion and a nuanced understanding of well-being at the sites, and has potential to feed into national policy development. We conclude by outlining how the lessons learned in our work can support the translation of values across scales.

, Pua‘ala - Ctr for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History
, Eleanor - Ctr for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History
, Joe - Ctr for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

In natural resource management, indicators help to describe complex information in a concise manner, track change within and across systems, and understand drivers of change. However, choice and measurement methods can impact management approaches, sustainability outcomes, and the ability of Indigenous and local communities to realize their self-determined visions. We emphasize a biocultural approach, which encompasses feedbacks between social and ecological systems and begins with an understanding of locally grounded priorities to inform natural resource stewardship. We discuss lessons learned through continued collaborations with Indigenous and local practitioners from around the world on how indicators are designed, measured, and used in resource management, especially within the context of commitments that span local to global scales. We provide examples of metrics that are culturally appropriate, monitored in a way that is coordinated with and respects peoples’ livelihood strategies and time limitations, and provide information that is relevant for local community decision-making.

, Mariana - University of Manitoba
, Iain - University of Manitoba

Cocoa agroforestry systems (CAFS) are a type of managed ecosystem for which cultural, economic, and ecological importance is significant. In the Talamanca region of Costa Rica, conservation and development programs have recognized the importance of CAFS, leading to the implementation of projects focused on improving cocoa yields. Despite these efforts, CAFS have spatially declined in recent years. We present our work with Bribri community members to undertake a biocultural design project. Biocultural design is a process that begins with understanding the capabilities of biocultural heritage, in this case, associated with CAFS, as well as people´s needs, values, and aspirations. We present the results of the process through three phases: inspiration (identification of problem or opportunity), ideation (generation of ideas), and implementation (execution of prototypes). Biocultural design provides an approach that allows creativity to emerge out of the capabilities found within biocultural heritage to support new livelihood opportunities.


, Renato - Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

The lack of long-term series of fisheries data makes it difficult to evaluate influences of environmental changes or management measures on tropical small-scale fisheries. This study compares applications of fishers’ local ecological knowledge to reconstruct temporal variation on abundance, composition and size of fishing resources in Brazilian coastal and freshwater ecosystems, through three approaches. First, by asking fishers about their perceptions about changes along a given period of time, which could be some important event in the past (building of a dam), a remarkable period in fishers’ life or a set time frame. Second, by asking the same question to fishers of distinct ages and then checking for differences on answers between younger and older fishers. Third, to interview fishers in distinct periods of time and ask the same or similar questions about fish catches. These approaches have provided invaluable indicators of change on poorly known tropical fisheries.