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: Survival of wildlife species depends on its neighbour's genes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Rio's Olympic golf course in legal bunker

21 hours ago

The return of golf to the Olympics after what will be 112 years by the time Rio hosts South America's first Games in 2016 comes amid accusations environmental laws were got round to build the facility in ...

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?