Call for papers
Ethnoecology is the interdisciplinary study of dynamic relationships among peoples, biota, and environments. Ethnoecological studies are based on a multidisciplinary perspective that draws on the insights from the natural and behavioural sciences at multiple levels- from the views of villagers in developing nations to those of policy-makers in industrial nations. Ethnoecological studies might help us understand today's social and environmental problems (e.g. ecological degradation, climate change, loss of biological and cultural diversity, water scarcity, economic inequalities, and demographic transitions).
The Etnoecology Laboratory aims at promoting the development of ethnoecology in Europe. The Laboratory is based at the Institute for Environmental Sciences and Technology (ICTA) at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) and has various training and research sites.
The specific objectives of Ethnoecology Laboratory are:
- To increase the academic offer of ethnoecology in Europe
- To act as a catalyst for ethnoecology research in environmental sciences
- To encourage interdisciplinary research in environmental sciences
- To organize an Ethnoecology Network
- To offer training in collecting primary data through field methods courses and the possibility to participate in ongoing research projects.
Current research lines
Local Environmental Knowledge
Through this line of research, we have 1) tested hypotheses about the correlates of local environmental knowledge; and 2) addressed the evolutionary nature of local environmental knowledge. We have showed that indigenous groups hold ethnobotanical knowledge in common, a finding with policy implications for indigenous peoples who claim a share on the financial benefits from commercial uses of ethnobotanical knowledge. We have also studied how market exposure affects the distribution of local environmental knowledge, finding that people in isolated villages share more knowledge than people in villages close to towns, but that only economic activities that take people out of their cultural context are negatively associated with their local knowledge. The finding suggests that economic development may be compatible with the retention of local knowledge. More recently, we have taken an important first step in assessing the benefits of individual levels of local knowledge on measurable outcomes, finding that individual ethnobotanical knowledge is associated with effective habitat management proxied by the conservation of crop diversity and the reduction of the area of old-growth forest cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture. We have also found a positive association between individual ethnobotanical knowledge and own nutritional status and children’s health. In the Ethnoecology Laboratory most recent work, we address the evolutionary nature of local environmental knowledge and its role in building resilience in resource management systems.
Cultural Change among Indigenous Peoples
As market economies expand, the culture, lifestyle, and habitat of indigenous people changes, often in predictable and sometimes in irreversible ways. Economic development brings about occupational specialization, shifts in preferences and in type of human capital people accumulate, and changes in social organization, health, and nutritional status. Research is currently being undertaken at the Ethnoecology Laboratory on how indigenous peoples perceive concepts such as health and wellbeing. Work is also being undertaken to study and help voice the rights of indigenous peoples determine their own path of development. Much has been said about the boons and curses of globalization or trade opening as it affects highly autarkic indigenous peoples, but little of what is said is rigorously quantitative and longitudinal, driven by testable hypotheses. As often happens in academic and policy debates, rhetoric, theories, and polemics are ahead of careful empirical work. To fill that gap, during more than a decade, researchers from the Ethnoecology Lab have collaborated with the Tsimane’ Amazonian Panel Study (TAPS). TAPS aims to assess the effects of trade opening or market exposure on well-being and on the use of natural resources in a native Amazonian society in Bolivia. It does so by conducting a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, long-term program of research, training, and development. Research draws on an eclectic mix of theories and insights from economics, evolutionary biology, and cultural anthropology.
Emerging Conservation tools
The last decade has witnessed the development of payments for ecosystem services and environmental offset mechanisms as new economic instruments to promote conservation across the world. In many instances, indigenous peoples have got involved in the design, implementation or contestation of these instruments. Researchers from the Ethnoecology Lab have analysed the potential benefits and costs that some pilot experiences with carbon offsets have had on indigenous and non-indigenous groups of rural Mexico, including better resource management, political empowerment but also increased income inequality and gender blindness toward resource use. Ongoing work is testing the influence of economic incentives in local resource governance and conservation attitudes and behavior among indigenous and non-indigenous groups, as well as drawing insights on how to best design -if possible- these instruments to work locally and legitimately for heterogeneous communities that live in biologically rich forests and landscapes.
Indigenous Peoples' and Community Conserved Areas and Territories
scientific evidence that Community Based Natural Resource Management (hereafter
CBNRM) in specific cultural and ecological contexts is positively associated
with the well-being of local communities and the maintenance and enhancement of
biodiversity and ecosystem services scientific evidence that Community Based Natural Resource Management (hereafter CBNRM) in specific cultural and ecological contexts is positively associated with the well-being of local communities and the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, such management arrangements -and the associated biocultural diversity- are being eroded due to an increased interconnection of cultures and ecosystems partly driven by economic globalization. Additionally there is a lack of recognition or even intentional marginalization of these CBNRM systems by local and national governments, even if CBNRM has proved to be central in securing the means of existence of millions of people around the world, and in contributing to the conservation of great portions of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems at a global level. Researchers from the Ethnoecology Laboratory study different forms of CBNRM developed by indigenous peoples and rural populations living in areas of high biodiversity. We are also analysing the role of community-based conservation in fostering or undermining socio-ecological resilience. In theory, community-based conservation can contribute to maintaining biological diversity and ensuring rural and indigenous peoples’ ability to benefit from natural resources and to anticipate and adapt to socio-ecological change, but this may not always be the case.
Plants and People
Researchers from the Ethnoecology Lab have addressed the interactions between the economic, cultural, and practical value of wild and cultivated plants for a cultural group. We have found that those values do not necessarily correlate and we have proposed a new way to assess the value of different plant species taking into account the cultural, practical, and economic values of plant species to people of one culture. In our recent work with home garden tenders in the Iberian Peninsula, we found that although vegetable home gardens in rural areas of industrialized nations provide non-negligible financial benefits, this only partially explain why people continue to cultivate home gardens. Those forms of interaction with the environment also carry cultural values.