Native tribes' traditional knowledge can help US adapt to climate change

Oct 03, 2013

New England's Native tribes, whose sustainable ways of farming, forestry, hunting and land and water management were devastated by European colonists four centuries ago, can help modern America adapt to climate change.

That's the conclusion of more than 50 researchers at Dartmouth and elsewhere in a special issue of the journal Climatic Change. It is the first time a peer-reviewed journal has focused exclusively on 's impacts on U.S. tribes and how they are responding to the changing environments. Dartmouth also will host an Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group meeting Nov. 4- 5.

The special issue, which includes 13 articles, concludes that tribes' traditional ecological knowledge can play a key role in developing scientific solutions to adapt to the impacts. "The partnerships between tribal peoples and their non-tribal research allies give us a model for responsible and respectful international collaboration," the authors say.

Dartmouth assistant professors Nicholas Reo and Angela Parker, whose article is titled "Re-thinking colonialism to prepare for the impacts of rapid environmental change," said New England settlers created a cascade of environmental and human changes that spread across North America, including human diseases, invasive species, deforestation and overharvest.

The researchers identified social and ecological tipping points and feedback loops that amplify and mitigate . For example, prior to the arrival of Europeans, old growth deciduous forests were rich with animal and plant resources and covered more than 80 percent of New England. Native peoples helped to sustain this bountiful biodiversity for centuries through their land practices.

"But when indigenous communities were decimated by disease and eventually alienated from their known environments, land tenure innovations based on deep, local ecological knowledge, disappeared," the researchers say. "Colonists, and their extractive systems aimed at key animal and plant species, became the new shapers of cultural landscapes. Rapid ecological degradation subsequently ensued, and New Englanders created a difficult project of stewarding a far less resilient landscape without help from indigenous land managers who would have known best how to enact ecological restoration measures."

Today's tribal members who work with natural resources, such as fisherman, farmers and , can play key roles in devising local and regional strategies to adapt to climate change, the researchers say.

Explore further: New study details future of oil and gas development in the Western Amazon

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Measuring phosphorus loss from Midwest crop fields

8 hours ago

Field runoff from farms in the Lake Erie basin is often rich in soluble plant nutrients, including phosphorus. When this nutrient-rich runoff reaches the lake, the phosphorus can support abundant algal blooms ...

FACT CHECK: Both sides in Keystone XL debate bend facts

21 hours ago

Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf, say the privately funded, $8 billion project is a critically needed piece of infrastructure that will create thousands of jobs ...

Sao Paulo warns of severe water rationing

23 hours ago

Authorities in Sao Paulo, Brazil's richest state and economic hub, have warned they are considering severe water rationing if the country's worst drought in 80 years continues.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Pediopal
1.8 / 5 (14) Oct 03, 2013
Never happen. Most non Native Americans are far too greedy and religious. They think god will pull them out and march them straight to heaven before the place is totally ruined and unlivable. Others do not think god will save them but think their gated communities and billions of dollars will. Then there is the third kind of wacko that believes both of the stupid things above. We call them Tea-party supporters.
Jim Steele
1 / 5 (11) Oct 29, 2013
The Inuit have argued it is the time of the most polar bears. And most research show the lack of sea ice has benefitted the whole Arctic food web. Read http://landscapes...ial.html
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (9) Oct 29, 2013
How many native Americans in New England know anything about how their ancestors lived?
Why wouldn't farmers, ranchers, lumberjacks, ...from any background know as much?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.