Award #0505094, BE/CNH: Biodiversity Dynamics and Land-Use Changes in the Amazon: Multi-Scale Interactions Between Ecological Systems and Resource-Use Decisions by Indigenous Peoples. P.I. Jose Fragoso, University of Hawaii
Debate surrounding resource use and conservation by indigenous peoples has shifted away from tests of the “noble savage” hypothesis of the 1970s and 1980s towards analysis of the multiple social, economic, and biological factors that affect the sustainability of resource use. Hunting practices in particular among many indigenous groups are probably strongly regulated by internal controls, based on a combination of spiritual beliefs (cosmology), social rituals, and natural history knowledge. This research project will test the fundamental hypothesis that retention of traditional practices and cosmology by indigenous societies buffers them against the process of integration into the national society, thereby preventing biodiversity and ecosystem degradation by the indigenous societies themselves. Socioeconomic data, wildlife data, and remotely sensed data will be collected, integrated, and analyzed within a geographic information system. In addition to a better understanding of human-biodiversity linkages in indigenous areas, outcomes of this project will include (1) educational materials for the Macuxi and the institutions that work with them, (2) a distance-linked graduate seminar in which students collaborate across departments, campuses and disciplines, (3) broadening of the participation of women and minority students in science, and (4) enhancement of the infrastructure for science by linking institutions with different areas of specialty into a teaching and research network that will benefit students who would normally have access only to their own institution. This project will contribute to the development of effective development policies and biodiversity conservation and will help provide theoretical background for coupled human-natural systems in the subsistence or semi-subsistence societies that characterize much of tropics. The results will be particularly germane for the ongoing debate on the role of “people in parks” and on the contribution that indigenous peoples will make to biodiversity conservation worldwide. The geographical location of this study is significant unto itself. Roraima covers a large portion of the unstudied and largely unmanaged high diversity Guiana Shield forest-savanna transition. For this key ecological area, the future of biodiversity lies in the hands of indigenous peoples. This study will provide insights into the internal cultural dynamics of indigenous societies and how they influence, and are influenced by, biodiversity patterns and ecosystem function. The results will have important implications for human-environment interactions in Raposa and elsewhere where indigenous peoples retain an important presence.