Biodiversity, Traditional Management Systems and

Conférence internationale Biodiversité: science et gouvernance
Atelier 13 - Diversité biologique, diversité culturelle : Enjeux autour des savoirs locaux
27 janvier 2005
Fikret Berkes
To conserve biodiversity, we need to understand how human cultures shape
landscapes and interact with them. To a large extent, world’s biodiversity depends on
maintaining resource use that facilitates the continued renewal of ecosystems.
The use of non-timber forest product by indigenous peoples in the Canadian subarctic offers alternative ways of conceiving biodiversity conservation that brings
together biodiversity, traditional management systems and livelihoods. Forests are
no longer viewed as merely a source of timber, but rather as ecosystems that provide
timber, medicinal plants, foods, craft materials and recreational opportunities. To
manage such a system of production, new questions need to be raised, such as what
constraints exist and what institutional changes are required. Some of these
questions have been considered by work in traditional ecological knowledge and
management systems.
Ecosystem-based forest management means protecting the integrity, health and
resilience of ecosystems. It does not focus primarily on resources but rather on the
sustainability of ecosystem processes necessary to provide these resources.
Traditional management systems may resemble contemporary scientific ecosystem
management, such as the practice of the Kayapo people of Brazil who initiate
processes of forest succession. By creating forest islands in the grasslands, the
Kayapo people demonstrate their knowledge of the relationship between disturbance
and forest succession.
The challenge is to achieve both biodiversity conservation and human-well being.
Often, only one of these goals dominates. For example, involving local communities
in conservation is often used as a way to make conservation measures more
acceptable, but the ultimate objective remains one of conservation. Management
approaches that explicitly address both conservation and livelihoods objectives are
less common.
In the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, such approaches - called “integrated
responses” - may include a range of instruments such as multi-stakeholder
processes, decentralization and devolution policies, partnerships and networks, and
multiple institutions and actors. The participatory management needed in such
integrated responses is not achieved only through community-based systems.
Resources tend to be used also by competing communities and user-groups, and
there are cross-scale linkages between communities and other levels of governance.
Institutional interplay draws attention to the linkages among institutions, both at the
same level of social and political organization and across levels. It includes the
linkage of institutions horizontally (across geographical space) and vertically (across
levels of organization). The concept of institutional interplay expands the notion of comanagement that is often conceived as a simple two-way linkage between a unitary
government and the community.