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Global environmental change: local perceptions, understandings, and explanations

Aili Pyhšlš, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain; Metapopulation Research Centre, Dept. of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
Ńlvaro FernŠndez-Llamazares, Metapopulation Research Centre, Dept. of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Finland; Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain
Hertta Lehvšvirta, Metapopulation Research Centre, Dept. of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
Anja Byg, Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group, James Hutton Institute, UK
Isabel Ruiz-Mallťn, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC); Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain
Matthieu Salpeteur, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain; ERAAUB, Departament de PrehistÚria, HistÚria Antiga i Arqueologia, Universitat de Barcelona (UB), Spain
Thomas F Thornton, Oxford University, School of Geography and the Environment

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08482-210325

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Abstract

Global environmental change (GEC) is an increasingly discussed phenomenon in the scientific literature as evidence of its presence and impacts continues to grow. Yet, while the documentation of GEC is becoming more readily available, local perceptions of GEC— particularly in small-scale societies—and preferences about how to deal with it, are still largely overlooked. Local knowledge and perceptions of GEC are important in that agents make decisions (including on natural resource management) based on individual perceptions. We carried out a systematic literature review that aims to provide an exhaustive state-of-the-art of the degree to and manner in which the study of local perceptions of change are being addressed in GEC research. We reviewed 126 articles found in peer-reviewed journals (between 1998 and 2014) that address local perceptions of GEC. We used three particular lenses of analysis that are known to influence local perceptions, namely (i) cognition, (ii) culture and knowledge, and (iii) possibilities for adaptation.We present our findings on the geographical distribution of the current research, the most common changes reported, perceived drivers and impacts of change, and local explanations and evaluations of change and impacts. Overall, we found the studies to be geographically biased, lacking methodological reporting, mostly theory based with little primary data, and lacking of indepth analysis of the psychological and ontological influences in perception and implications for adaptation. We provide recommendations for future GEC research and propose the development of a “meta-language” around adaptation, perception, and mediation to encourage a greater appreciation and understanding of the diversity around these phenomena across multiple scales, and improved codesign and facilitation of locally relevant adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Key words

adaptive strategies; cognitive psychology; local knowledge; ontologies; small-scale societies

Copyright © 2016 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.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087