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Tales of coexistence: a cultural ecosystem assessment of complex socio-ecological dynamics

Viana Canelas, Joana Filipa (2021) Tales of coexistence: a cultural ecosystem assessment of complex socio-ecological dynamics. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.91715) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:91715)

Language: English

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The importance of bridging diverse worldviews and knowledge systems to enhance conservation outcomes is increasingly recognized. Yet, the cultural, social and political dimensions of ecosystems are still largely overlooked in conservation sciences, following the premisses of prevalent nature:culture dichotomies within managerialist approaches. Building from an interrogation of the ontological and epistemological limitations of ecosystem assessment frameworks, namely Ecosystem Services (ES) and Nature's Contributions to People (NCP), this thesis elaborates the potential role of Cultural Ecosystem Assessments to foster culturally adequate, socially equitable and ecologically sustainable conservation responses. As ecosystem assessments are influential frameworks to diagnose environmental issues and inform conservation strategies, recognizing the shortcomings of monetary valuations and biodiversity offsetting strategies requires discarding their economic frameworks and develop relational and place-based approaches to human-environment relationships which support struggles for environmental justice. Thus, enquiring which overlooked dimensions of human-environment relationships need to be considered and how can these be systematically integrated in ecosystem assessments, this thesis seeks to develop a framework for Cultural Ecosystem Assessments which conveys the context-specific dimensions of human-environment relationships, unveils their influence on complex social-ecological dynamics and assists developing effective, equitable and representative community-based strategies for the conservation of biocultural diversity.

Following an inductive approach, based on ethnographic and interpretive mixed methods research, the thesis explores the cultural, political and storied landscapes of local human-environment relationships in two contrasting case-studies: first, with local and indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon; and, second, with the provisional multi-ethnic communities of Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic. The results provide supporting evidence that (1) cultural practices (e.g. land management), benefits (e.g. identities) and values (e.g. ethical principles) are interdependent and mediate the co-production of all 'ecosystem services'; (2) relational values convey distinct articulations of reciprocity in human-environment relationships that regulate feedback processes between the social and ecological systems; (3) local and indigenous knowledge systems influence all dimensions of human-environment relationships, including cultural modes of production, consumption, representation and regulation of ecological processes; and (4) considering the sociocultural and spatio-temporal variability of human-environment relationships, including underlying social structures and power relationships, reveals the unequal social and geographical distribution of 'ecosystem services' supply and demand. The analysis demonstrates that Cultural Ecosystem Assessments may contribute to disclose complex socio-ecological dynamics from local to global scale, including ecosystem services flows, drivers of social and ecological change, feedback processes and emergent regulation mechanisms.

Then, through developing a biocultural and relational approach to socio-ecological systems, the thesis advances a conceptual, analytical and methodological framework for Cultural Ecosystem Assessments which contributes to address key knowledge gaps in sustainability sciences, by revealing: (1) the role of diverse worldviews, knowledge systems and relational values influencing the co-production of ES/NCP and shaping wider socio-ecological dynamics; (2) the influence of social structures, governance systems and power relationships in the distribution of ES/NCP and their role driving socio-ecological changes; (3) the unequal social and geographical distribution of ES/NCP supply and demand which underlies ES/NCP flows both within and across regions and society; and (4) the spatial and temporal dynamics of socio-ecological change, including trade-offs between distinct ES/NCP, feedback process and direct or indirect drivers of socio-ecological change. Ultimately, the framework recasts ecosystem assessments around context-specific perspectives, fostering assessments' ability to bridge diverse worldviews and knowledge systems, support struggles for environmental justice and inform community-based strategies for the conservation of biocultural diversity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Fish, Robert
Thesis advisor: Tzanopoulos, Joseph
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.91715
Uncontrolled keywords: Cultural Ecosystem Services, Socio-Ecological Dynamics, Biocultural Diversity, Indigenous and Local Knowledge, Storied Landscapes, Political Landscapes
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2021 13:10 UTC
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2021 15:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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