Local perceptions as a guide for the sustainable management of natural resources: Empirical evidence from a small-scale society in Bolivian Amazonia

Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Isabel Díaz-Reviriego, Maximilien Guèze, Mar Cabeza, Aili Pyhälä, Victoria Reyes-García

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2016 by the author(s). Research on natural resource management suggests that local perceptions form the basis upon which many small-scale societies monitor availability and change in the stock of common-pool natural resources. In contrast, this literature debates whether local perceptions can be effective in guiding the sustainable management of natural resources. With empirical evidence on this matter still highly limited, we explored the role of local perceptions as drivers of harvesting and management behavior in a small-scale society in Bolivian Amazonia. We conducted structured interviews to capture local perceptions of availability and change in the stock of thatch palm (Geonoma deversa) among the Tsimane', an indigenous society of foragers-horticulturalists (n = 296 adults in 13 villages). We analyzed whether perceptions of availability match estimates of abundance obtained from ecological data and whether differences in perception help to explain harvesting behavior and local management of thatch palm. Perceptions of availability of G. deversa are highly contingent upon the social, economic, and cultural conditions within which the Tsimane' have experienced changes in the availability of the resource, thus giving a better reflection of the historical, rather than of the ecological, dimensions of the changes undergone. Although local perceptions might fall short in precision when scrutinized from an ecological standpoint, their importance in informing sustainable management should not be underestimated. Our findings show that most of the harvesting and management actions that the Tsimane' undertake are, at least partially, shaped by their local perceptions. This paper contributes to the broader literature on natural resource management by providing empirical evidence of the critical role of local perceptions in promoting collective responses for the sustainable management of natural resources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalEcology and Society
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Change perceptions
  • Collective action
  • Common-pool resources
  • Local peoples
  • Overharvesting
  • Tsimane’

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