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Accurate Mental Maps as an Aspect of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK): a Case Study from Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

John McKenna, Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster
Rory J. Quinn, Lecturer in Marine Archaeological Geophysics, Centre for Maritime Archaeology, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster
Daniel J. Donnelly
J. Andrew G. Cooper, Professor of Coastal Science, Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster


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A mental map of the substrate of Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, compiled from interviews with local fishermen, is compared with maps produced by science-based techniques. The comparison reveals that the mental map is highly accurate. This finding contrasts with the spatial distortion characteristic of the classic mental map. The accuracy of the Lough Neagh map is attributed to the fact that it is a compendium of the knowledge of several generations, rather than an individual perception. Individual distortions are filtered out, and accuracy is promoted by economic self-interest. High accuracy may be characteristic of the mental maps held by artisanal exploiters of natural resources.

Key words

Geophysical survey; LEK; local environmental knowledge; Lough Neagh; mental maps; Northern Ireland; traditional fishery

Copyright © 2008 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087