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Combining Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Monitoring Populations for Co-Management

Henrik Moller, University of Otago
Fikret Berkes, University of Manitoba
Philip O'Brian Lyver, University of Otago
Mina Kislalioglu, University of Manitoba


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Using a combination of traditional ecological knowledge and science to monitor populations can greatly assist co-management for sustainable customary wildlife harvests by indigenous peoples. Case studies from Canada and New Zealand emphasize that, although traditional monitoring methods may often be imprecise and qualitative, they are nevertheless valuable because they are based on observations over long time periods, incorporate large sample sizes, are inexpensive, invite the participation of harvesters as researchers, and sometimes incorporate subtle multivariate cross checks for environmental change. A few simple rules suggested by traditional knowledge may produce good management outcomes consistent with fuzzy logic thinking. Science can sometimes offer better tests of potential causes of population change by research on larger spatial scales, precise quantification, and evaluation of population change where no harvest occurs. However, science is expensive and may not always be trusted or welcomed by customary users of wildlife. Short scientific studies in which traditional monitoring methods are calibrated against population abundance could make it possible to mesh traditional ecological knowledge with scientific inferences of prey population dynamics. This paper analyzes the traditional monitoring techniques of catch per unit effort and body condition. Combining scientific and traditional monitoring methods can not only build partnership and community consensus, but also, and more importantly, allow indigenous wildlife users to critically evaluate scientific predictions on their own terms and test sustainability using their own forms of adaptive management.

Key words

adaptive management, catch per unit effort, community-based conservation, customary harvesting, indigenous people, population monitoring, sustainability, New Zealand, Canada

Copyright © 2004 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087