Traditional ecological knowledge among transhumant pastoralists in Mediterranean Spain

Elisa Oteros-Rozas, Ricardo Ontillera-Sánchez, Pau Sanosa, Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Victoria Reyes-García, José A. González

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83 Citations (Scopus)


Mobility is a millenary human strategy to deal with environmental change. An outstanding example of mobility is transhumance, an ancient pastoralist practice consisting of the seasonal migration of livestock between ecological regions following peaks in pasture productivity. The maintenance of transhumance depends partly on the preservation of related traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). We (a) identified and characterized social groups that hold transhumance-related TEK, (b) analyzed trends in transhumance-related TEK across generations and social groups, (c) examined the factors that influence variation in levels of TEK, and (d) analyzed elements of transhumance-related TEK as examples of adaptive strategies to cope with global change. We used transhumance on the Conquense Drove Road, a major active transhumant network in Spain, as a case study. Through an indepth literature review, participant observation, semistructured interviews, and a focus group discussion, we developed a survey to examine transhumance-related knowledge, practices, and beliefs. We collected survey data from 150 informants. Although a rich body of TEK persisted among transhumant shepherds, we found a marked loss of TEK among transhumants born after 1975, who scored one-fifth lower on survey items than other generations. The maintenance of transhumance on foot is the most important factor influencing TEK preservation. We conclude that in developed country settings, maintaining conditions for herd mobility can contribute to enhancing the adaptive capacity of agrarian societies to cope with global environmental change. © 2013 by the author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalEcology and Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013


  • Adaptive strategy
  • Drove road
  • Environmental change
  • Mobility
  • Pastoralism
  • Resilience


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