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The Multiple Use of Tropical Forests by Indigenous Peoples in Mexico: a Case of Adaptive Management

Víctor M. Toledo, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, UNAM
Benjamín F Ortiz-Espejel
Leni Cortés
Patricia Moguel
María de Jesús Ordoñez

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The quest for an appropriate system of management for tropical ecosystems necessitates that ecologists consider the accumulated experiences of indigenous peoples in their long-term management of local resources, a subject of current ethnoecology. This paper provides data and empirical evidence of an indigenous multiple-use strategy (MUS) of tropical forest management existing in Mexico, that can be considered a case of adaptive management. This conclusion is based on the observation that some indigenous communities avoid common modernization routes toward specialized, unsustainable, and ecologically disruptive systems of production, and yet probably achieve the most successful tropical forest utilization design, in terms of biodiversity conservation, resilience, and sustainability. This analysis relies on an exhaustive review of the literature and the authors' field research. Apparently, this MUS represents an endogenous reaction of indigenous communities to the intensification of natural resource use, responding to technological, demographic, cultural, and economic changes in the contemporary world. This transforms traditional shifting cultivators into multiple-use strategists. Based on a case study, three main features (biodiversity, resilience, and permanence) considered relevant to achieving adaptive and sustainable management of tropical ecosystems are discussed.

Key words

adaptive management, ethnoecology, indigenous peoples, Mexico, multiple use, tropical rain forest
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087