Indigenous people play a key role in preserving vulnerable ecosystems

Environmentalists typically turn to rigorous scientific research to preserve ecosystems, but a recent study shows that grassroots knowledge from Indigenous people can play an equally important role in conservation efforts.

The new study from Rutgers University collected more than 300 indicators developed by Indigenous people to monitor ecosystem change, and most revealed negative trends, such as the health of wild animals and increasing populations of invasive species that disrupt a healthy balance in the ecosystem.

Such local knowledge influences decisions about where and how to hunt benefits ecosystem management and is important for scientific monitoring on a global scale.

Lead author Pamela McElwee, an associate professor in the university’s human ecology department, said that since the world is changing rapidly, scientists and indigenous people are a much-needed collaboration.

“Many Indigenous peoples have unique abilities to notice ecosystems altering before their eyes by using local indicators, like the color of fat in hunted prey or changes in types of species found together.”

This can significantly contribute to scientific research since scientists are unable to perform the same observations due to many reasons, including costs and the remoteness of some areas. “So Indigenous knowledge is absolutely essential for understanding the cumulative impacts of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.”

Indigenous and local knowledge is the practical information that people use to manage resources and pass on between generations. Such knowledge benefits conservation initiatives for preserving ecosystems and support economies that depend on natural resources in vast areas of the world.

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