woensdag 8 augustus 2012

Native ecological knowledge applied to a satellite map

Naidoo and Hill's 'Emergence of Indigenous Vegetation Classifications Through Integration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Remote Sensing Analyses' (2006) discusses the accuracy of native Paraguayan Ache landscape categories applied to Landsat imagery. I am not entirely sure how to interpret the results, 'traditional ecological knowledge' recorded "low end" accuracy but was still "reasonable". See for yourself; what I find fascinating is the exact way the Ache know and classify the forest. Also see this.
Forests, especially remote tropical forests, are often highly inaccessible over large scales to ecologists and other scientists who wish to study ecological patterns and processes in the field. A more typical form of study involves the establishment of a research station on a relatively small parcel of land, followed by intensive ecological investigation within a tight radius of the station along a trail and/or river network. In contrast, nomadic or seminomadic native groups that have lived for generations within the forest will likely have a broader familiarity with the forest at much larger scales, although their level of detailed understanding will likely be limited to those aspects of the forest that are relevant to their own subsistence needs. The potential for Western scientific methods and TEK to complement one another in this situation is quite clear. (Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has been defined as ‘‘a cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment’’.TEK is often associated with indigenous groups that retain traditional resource use practices and/or cultural beliefs.)

Prior to contact with Western civilizations, the Ache were nomadic hunter-gatherers who permanently inhabited the forest and used a wide variety of forest resources for subsistence and cultural purposes. All groups of Ache have now been settled onto permanent reservations outside the Mbaracayu Forest Reserve (the last uncontacted group was resettled in 1978), but several groups continue to forage in the Reserve in a manner similar to their traditional use of the forest. Because of their dependence on the forest, the Ache have evolved into unparalleled trackers of wild game, and have also developed a detailed system of vegetation classification to describe the types of forest present within their hunting ranges. The Ache vegetation classification system revolves around a practical designation of various forest cover types into units that reflect characteristics such as ease of travel, game abundance, and distance from water. Because of their long and intimate association with the forest environment, vegetation classes are highly nuanced, spatially explicit categorizations that can change within a matter of meters. The Ache recognize 69 different classes of vegetation, based primarily on vegetation structure, dominant species, proximity to other habitat types or geographical features (e.g., rivers, meadows), topography, and moisture. Of these, 16 appear to be more appropriately described as geographical classes, rather than vegetation classes, because they are defined primarily, if not exclusively, by geographic location (e.g., ‘‘ykmambu’’: on hillside going up from water). 
In preliminary analyses, we attempted to classify all 53 vegetation classes that the Ache recognize, but it proved impossible to accurately classify this many categories. However, because many of the Ache vegetation classes appear similar, even to the Ache themselves, Hill and others lumped vegetation classes into seven broader categories: meadows, swamps, bamboo understory forests, thick undergrowth vine forests, low forests, high forests, and big bamboo forest.

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