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Special Issue "Advancing the Involvement of Indigenous and Local Communities in Monitoring and Understanding Freshwater Ecosystems"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Brenda Parlee
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton Alberta T6G2H1, Canada
Interests: community-based resource management; interdisciplinary research; applied ecology
Dr. Henry P. Huntington
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Huntington Consulting, Eagle River, AK, USA
Interests: sea ice; social science; interdisciplinary research; Indigenous Knowledge

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Climate change, resource development, and other stresses are impacting the sustainability of freshwater ecosystems, including the Makenzie River Basin of Northwestern Canada, the Mekong River of Southeast Asia, and the Amazon Basin in Brazil. A variety of approaches to documenting biophysical patterns and trends have highlighted changes in water, fish, and aquatic habitats, but these have typically been defined and measured in physical and biological terms. A deeper understanding of these changes and their social, cultural, and economic implications can be gained through community-based monitoring and research. Historically, northern Indigenous communities have been discouraged from participating in formal monitoring programs and systems of natural resource governance. However, traditional forms of tracking change are well developed in communities that have long histories of connection to place. This issue is based on research from across the Mackenzie River Basin, the largest and longest river system in Canada, as well as related studies in the Mekong and Amazon basins. The connections throughout these river basins are not only biophysical; kinship networks, common economic and cultural practices, as well as shared beliefs and norms have created opportunities for people to work together over many generations. The research project Tracking Change builds on these long histories of interconnection, creating opportunities for people to build a shared understanding of social–ecological change based on Indigenous and local knowledge. The issue brings together papers led by graduate students, community researchers, and academics on diverse issues of change in freshwater ecosystems.

As a whole, the papers provide insight into the common narratives and issues facing Indigenous communities, as well as the diversity of indicators and approaches important for advancing capacity and networks of Indigenous and local communities in monitoring freshwater ecosystems.

Dr. Brenda Parlee
Dr. Henry P. Huntington
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Traditional knowledge
  • Indigenous
  • Watershed
  • Monitoring
  • Indicators
  • Governance
  • Livelihoods
  • Subsistence fisheries
  • Management
  • Water
  • Fish

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Article
One-Size Does Not Fit All—A Networked Approach to Community-Based Monitoring in Large River Basins
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7400; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137400 - 01 Jul 2021
Viewed by 644
Abstract
Monitoring methods based on Indigenous knowledge have the potential to contribute to our understanding of large watersheds. Research in large, complex, and dynamic ecosystems suggests a participatory approach to monitoring—that builds on the diverse knowledges, practices, and beliefs of local people—can yield more [...] Read more.
Monitoring methods based on Indigenous knowledge have the potential to contribute to our understanding of large watersheds. Research in large, complex, and dynamic ecosystems suggests a participatory approach to monitoring—that builds on the diverse knowledges, practices, and beliefs of local people—can yield more meaningful outcomes than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Here we share the results of 12 community-based, participatory monitoring projects led by Indigenous governments and organizations in the Mackenzie River Basin (2015–2018). Specifically, we present and compare the indicators and monitoring methods developed by each of these community-based cases to demonstrate the specificity of place, culture, and context. A scalar analysis of these results suggests that the combination of core (common) indicators used across the basin, coupled with others that are meaningful at local level, create a methodological bricolage—a mix of tools, methods, and rules-in-use that are fit together. Our findings, along with those of sister projects in two other major watersheds (Amazon, Mekong), confront assumptions that Indigenous-led community-based monitoring efforts are too local to offer insights about large-scale systems. In summary, a networked approach to community-based monitoring that can simultaneously engage with local- and watershed-level questions of social and ecological change can address gaps in knowledge. Such an approach can create both practices and outcomes that are useful to local peoples as well as to those engaged in basin-wide governance. Full article
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Article
Culturally Driven Monitoring: The Importance of Traditional Ecological Knowledge Indicators in Understanding Aquatic Ecosystem Change in the Northwest Territories’ Dehcho Region
Sustainability 2020, 12(19), 7923; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12197923 - 24 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1027
Abstract
There is growing concern about the sustainability of freshwater ecosystems in northern Canada that are under significant stress from climate change, resource development, and hydroelectric development, among others. Community-based monitoring (CBM) based on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has the potential to contribute to [...] Read more.
There is growing concern about the sustainability of freshwater ecosystems in northern Canada that are under significant stress from climate change, resource development, and hydroelectric development, among others. Community-based monitoring (CBM) based on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has the potential to contribute to understanding impacts on the environment and community livelihoods. This paper shares insights about culturally driven monitoring, through collaborative research with Kátł’odeeche First Nation (KFN) in the Northwest Territories. This research was initiated in 2018 to improve understanding of the changes occurring in the Hay River and Buffalo River sub-basins, which extend primarily across the Alberta and Northwest Territories borders. Drawing on 15 semi-structured interviews conducted with KFN elders, fish harvesters, and youth, this paper illustrates the kinds of social–ecological indicators used by KFN to track changes in the health of aquatic systems as well as the fishing livelihoods of local people. Utilizing indicators, fishers observe declines in fish health, water quality, water quantity, and ice thickness in their lifetime. Community members perceive these changes to be a result of the cumulative effects of environmental stressors. The indicators as well as trends and patterns being observed and experienced can contribute to both social learning in the community as well as the governance of the larger Mackenzie River Basin. Full article
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Article
Fishing Livelihoods in the Mackenzie River Basin: Stories of the Délįne Got’ine
Sustainability 2020, 12(19), 7888; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12197888 - 24 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 694
Abstract
Climate change is among the greatest challenges facing Indigenous peoples. The impacts of climate change cannot be understood as only ecological or through models and projections. In this study, narratives from Indigenous peoples provide lived experience and insight of how social and ecological [...] Read more.
Climate change is among the greatest challenges facing Indigenous peoples. The impacts of climate change cannot be understood as only ecological or through models and projections. In this study, narratives from Indigenous peoples provide lived experience and insight of how social and ecological impacts are interconnected. Through collaborative research with the Sahtú Renewable Resources Board in the Northwest Territories Canada in the period 2018–2019, this paper shares the stories of the Délįne Got’ine peoples of Great Bear Lake (GBL), and how warming temperatures in the region impact fishing livelihoods. Specifically, we address the question, “What are the impacts of climate change on the fishing livelihoods of the Délįne Got’ine people?” Narratives from 21 semi-structured interviews reveal insights on six dimensions of fishing livelihoods. Analysis suggests the specific indicators of ecological change of concern to fishers and how those impact livelihoods over the short and long term. Given that the majority of research on climate change involving Indigenous peoples in Canada has focused on the high arctic and marine environments, this work is unique in its focus on the subarctic region and on freshwater ecosystems and livelihoods. Full article
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Article
Towards Biocultural Conservation: Local and Indigenous Knowledge, Cultural Values and Governance of the White Sturgeon (Canada)
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7320; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187320 - 07 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 920
Abstract
This paper examines the extent to which Indigenous knowledge and values have informed conservation of the Lower Fraser River population of white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) in Canada. A review of grey literature and semi-structured interviews carried out with indigenous Stó:lō fishers [...] Read more.
This paper examines the extent to which Indigenous knowledge and values have informed conservation of the Lower Fraser River population of white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) in Canada. A review of grey literature and semi-structured interviews carried out with indigenous Stó:lō fishers and fisheries managers in the Lower Fraser Basin in 2016–2018 evidences the depth of knowledge held by Stó:lō fishers about this species and its importance to local communities. A summary of Stó:lō oral histories about the sturgeon and observations and experiences of settlement and development in the Fraser region, provides context for understanding why and how the white sturgeon came to be listed as a species at risk. However, the impacts were not only ecological; Stó:lō people were also significantly impacted by European settlement and development of the Fraser Basin over the last one hundred years. The assessment of the white sturgeon, under the Canadian Species at Risk Act in 2012 was a missed opportunity to decolonize current management approaches. The paper concludes by suggesting that a biocultural diversity conservation approach, that reflects both ecological and socio-cultural values, and is informed by scientific and Indigenous knowledge systems, is a more sustainable approach to the management of the white sturgeon and other species at risk. Full article
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Article
Drinking Water Consumption Patterns: An Exploration of Risk Perception and Governance in Two First Nations Communities
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 6851; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12176851 - 24 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1290
Abstract
Many Indigenous communities across Canada suffer from the lack of access to clean drinking water; ensuring individuals and communities have safe water to drink either from their home or from their local environment requires the consideration of multiple factors including individual risk perception. [...] Read more.
Many Indigenous communities across Canada suffer from the lack of access to clean drinking water; ensuring individuals and communities have safe water to drink either from their home or from their local environment requires the consideration of multiple factors including individual risk perception. In collaboration with local leaders, semi-structured interviews (n = 99) were conducted over a two-year period in the Dene Tha’ First Nation and Kátł’odeeche First Nation to unpack the issue of risk perception and its meaning to local community members. These local metrics of risk perception including smell, taste, safety, health fears and level of concern were then used to explore patterns in other data on drinking water consumption patterns and bottled water use. The results are consistent with previous research related to water insecurity and indicate that both communities consume more bottled water than the average Canadian. Results also varied by jurisdiction; those in Alberta indicated much higher levels of concern and a greater degree of bottled water consumption. Full article
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Article
Youth Engagement in Climate Change Action: Case Study on Indigenous Youth at COP24
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6299; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166299 - 05 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1579
Abstract
While there are many studies about the environmental impacts of climate change in the Canadian north, the role of Indigenous youth in climate governance has been a lesser focus of inquiry. A popularized assumption in some literature is that youth have little to [...] Read more.
While there are many studies about the environmental impacts of climate change in the Canadian north, the role of Indigenous youth in climate governance has been a lesser focus of inquiry. A popularized assumption in some literature is that youth have little to contribute to discussions on climate change and other aspects of land and resource management; such downplay of youth expertise and engagement may be contributing to climate anxiety (e.g., feelings of hopelessness), particularly in remote communities. Creating opportunities for youth to have a voice in global forums such as the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP24) on Climate Change may offset such anxiety. Building on previous research related to climate action, and the well-being of Indigenous youth, this paper shares the outcomes of research with Indigenous youth (along with family and teachers) from the Mackenzie River Basin who attended COP24 to determine the value of their experience. Key questions guiding these interviews included: How did youth impact others? and How did youth benefit from the experience? Key insights related to the value of a global experience; multiple youth presentations at COP24 were heard by hundreds of people who sought to learn more from youth about their experience of climate change. Additional insights were gathered about the importance of family and community (i.e., webs of support); social networks were seen as key to the success of youth who participated in the event and contributed to youth learning and leadership development. Full article
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Article
Cumulative Environmental Impacts in the Gwich’in Cultural Landscape
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4667; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114667 - 08 Jun 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1130
Abstract
Environmental changes are impacting northern environments and human communities. Cumulative impact assessments are vital to understanding the combined effects of regional industrial developments and natural disturbances that affect humans and ecosystems. A gap in cumulative impacts literature includes methods to evaluate impacts in [...] Read more.
Environmental changes are impacting northern environments and human communities. Cumulative impact assessments are vital to understanding the combined effects of regional industrial developments and natural disturbances that affect humans and ecosystems. A gap in cumulative impacts literature includes methods to evaluate impacts in cultural landscapes. In this study, we utilized spatial overlay analysis to assess cumulative environmental impacts in the cultural landscape of northern Canada’s Gwich’in Settlement Region. In three analyses, we quantified and mapped: (1) Cultural feature density, (2) cumulative environmental disturbance, and (3) potential overlap between disturbances and cultural features. Our first analysis depicts the extent and pattern of cultural relationships with regional landscapes and illustrates the Gwich’in cultural landscape, with widespread harvesting trails, named places, traditional use areas, and archaeological sites found in highest densities near important waterways. Our second analysis suggests that spatial overlay can track multiple disturbances, illustrating diffuse, lower intensity cumulative environmental impacts. The final analysis shows that overlaying disturbance and cultural feature data provides a novel way to investigate cumulative impacts in a cultural landscape, indicating relatively low levels of potential overlap between Gwich’in cultural features and disturbances. These methods provide one way to investigate cumulative impacts, relevant for well- documented cultural landscapes. Full article
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Article
Participatory Research with Fishers to Improve Knowledge on Small-Scale Fisheries in Tropical Rivers
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4487; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114487 - 01 Jun 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 867
Abstract
Freshwater small-scale fisheries sustain millions of livelihoods worldwide, but a lack of monitoring makes it difficult to check the sustainability of these fisheries. We aim to compare and describe participatory research methods used in studies with fishers in the Tapajos River, a poorly [...] Read more.
Freshwater small-scale fisheries sustain millions of livelihoods worldwide, but a lack of monitoring makes it difficult to check the sustainability of these fisheries. We aim to compare and describe participatory research methods used in studies with fishers in the Tapajos River, a poorly known tropical river in the Brazilian Amazon. We address three interview approaches, two ways to do fisheries monitoring and two approaches for georeferenced mapping based on fishers’ knowledge, which can provide data about at least 16 topics related to fisheries. We highlight major advantages and shortcomings of these methods and illustrate their potential with examples of results on fisheries and fish biology of Peacock bass (Cichla spp. tucunaré in Brazil), an important commercial fish in the Brazilian Amazon. The interviews, participatory monitoring and mapping revealed which fish are more valued by local communities, how fish abundance and sizes varied over time, when fish are more often caught and show reproductive activity, and which sites or habitats fish need to reproduce. In addition to providing useful data from many sites in a cost-effective way, participatory methods can bring the additional benefit of including local stakeholders in the monitoring, management, and research activities. Full article
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Project Report
Aligning Intentions with Community: Graduate Students Reflect on Collaborative Methodologies with Indigenous Research Partners
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7534; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187534 - 12 Sep 2020
Viewed by 573
Abstract
Collaborative and community-based research (CCBR) is well defined and discussed in the literature; however, there are few discussions about graduate students doing CCBR with Indigenous communities. This project report features insights from nine graduate students attending six universities in Canada, the United States, [...] Read more.
Collaborative and community-based research (CCBR) is well defined and discussed in the literature; however, there are few discussions about graduate students doing CCBR with Indigenous communities. This project report features insights from nine graduate students attending six universities in Canada, the United States, and Brazil. These students are a part of a multi-year research partnership grant involving fishing communities from three major watersheds, the Mackenzie River Basin, the Amazon River Basin, and the lower Mekong River Basin. Each student engaged in collaborative research around the themes of Indigenous fishing livelihoods and the role of local and traditional knowledge in river basin governance. This project report presents reflections of graduate students on developing relationships and enacting CCBR during the following three stages of research with Indigenous communities: research project design, research project implementation, and post-project engagement. Best practices have been developed from graduate student reflections on issues, challenges, and needs of graduate students doing CCBR. The findings suggest that a diversity of factors contribute to effective CCBR. This includes the needs and interests of the community partner, the quality of supervisor support, the skillset of the student, their disciplinary background, and their capacity to work in complex sociopolitical contexts. Full article
Project Report
Fishing Livelihoods and Diversifications in the Mekong River Basin in the Context of the Pak Mun Dam, Thailand
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7438; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187438 - 10 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 699
Abstract
Fishing livelihoods are under stress in many regions of the world, including the lower Mekong river basin. Building on research on the socio-economic impacts of hydroelectric development, this paper explores the spatial dimensions of livelihood diversifications. Research in 2016 and 2017, involving 26 [...] Read more.
Fishing livelihoods are under stress in many regions of the world, including the lower Mekong river basin. Building on research on the socio-economic impacts of hydroelectric development, this paper explores the spatial dimensions of livelihood diversifications. Research in 2016 and 2017, involving 26 semi-structured interviews in nine upstream, downstream, tributary and relocated villages in the vicinity of the Pak Mun hydroelectric dam, provides insight into how villagers have coped and adapted fishing livelihoods over time. Results are consistent with other research that has detailed the adverse effects of hydroelectric development on fishing livelihoods. Interviewees in the nine communities in the Isan region of Thailand experienced declines in the abundance and diversity of fish valued as food, and engaged in other household economic activities to support their families, including rice farming, marketing of fishing assets and other innovations. Stories of youth leaving communities (rural-urban migration) in search of employment and education were also shared. Although exploratory, our work confronts theories that fishing is a livelihood practice of “last resort”. Narratives suggest that both fishing and diversification to other activities have been both necessary and a choice among villagers with the ultimate aim of offsetting the adverse impacts and associated insecurity created by the dam development. Full article
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