Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC SECTION: Interdisciplinary Progress in Environmental Science & Management

Interdisciplinary progress in approaches to address social-ecological and ecocultural systems


a1 Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester C04 3SQ, UK


The emergent human cultures have shaped, and in turn been shaped by, local ecosystems. Yet humanity's intense modification of the environment has resulted in dramatic worldwide declines in natural and cultural capital. Social-ecological systems are becoming more vulnerable through the disruption of livelihoods, governance, institutions, resources and cultural traditions. This paper reviews the environmental sub-disciplines that have emerged to seek solutions for conservation and maintenance of the resilience of social-ecological systems. It shows that a central component is engagement with the knowledges of people within their contexts. Local knowledges of nature (traditional, indigenous, local ecological knowledge and ecoliteracy) are used by place-based cultures to guide actions towards nature. The importance of new engagements between different knowledges is now becoming more widely recognized by scientific institutions. Yet there still exist many false dualisms (for example local knowledge versus science) which tend to emphasize a superiority of one over the other. Ecocultures retain or strive to regain their connections with the environment, and thus improve their own resilience. Revitalization projects offer ways to connect knowledge with action to produce optimal outcomes for both nature and culture, suggesting that systems can be redesigned by emphasis on incorporation of local and traditional knowledge systems.

(Received May 04 2010)

(Accepted November 10 2010)

(Online publication February 10 2011)


c1 Correspondence: Jules Pretty e-mail: jpretty@essex.ac.uk