Biocultural indicators to support locally led environmental management and monitoring
Bryant C. DeRoy, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada
Chris T. Darimont, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada
Christina N. Service, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada; Spirit Bear Research Foundation, Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada
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Environmental management (EM) requires indicators to inform objectives and monitor the impacts or efficacy of management practices. One common approach uses “functional ecological” indicators, which are typically species whose presence or abundance are tied to functional ecological processes, such as nutrient productivity and availability, trophic interactions, and habitat connectivity. In contrast, and used for millennia by Indigenous peoples, biocultural indicators are rooted in local values and place-based relationships between nature and people. In many landscapes today where Indigenous peoples are reasserting sovereignty and governance authority over natural resources, the functional ecological approach to indicator development does not capture fundamental values and ties to the natural world that have supported social-ecological systems over the long term. Accordingly, we argue that the development and use of biocultural indicators to shape, monitor, and evaluate the success of EM projects will be critical to achieving ecological and social sustainability today. We have provided a framework composed of criteria to be considered when selecting and applying meaningful and efficacious biocultural indicators among the diverse array of potential species and values. We used a case study from a region now referred to as coastal British Columbia, Canada, to show how the suggested application of functional ecological indicators by the provincial government created barriers to the development of meaningful cogovernance. We then explained how the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation designed and implemented a bioculturally relevant suite of indicators in their own EM and monitoring processes. Drawing on our experiences there and both the biocultural and functional ecological literature, we proposed six generalizable criteria (culturally salient, inclusive, sensitive to impacts, supportive of place-based relationships, perceptible, and linked to human well-being) that can guide resource stewards and agencies in selecting locally relevant indicators to implement biocultural EM and monitor the performance of outcomes.
biocultural approaches; environmental management; indicators; Indigenous; locally led; monitoring
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